A Personal Memory: Reginald Hill

By Ann Cleeves

My first memory of meeting Reg Hill was at a CWA Northern Chapter Symposium in a hotel in Grasmere in the late eighties or early nineties.  He’d organised the weekend and it represented him perfectly: extremely comfortable, very sociable and quite unpretentious.  The food was wonderful and there was plenty to drink.  I was new to the association and Reg made me feel welcome.  He even bought one of my early books.  Even then I knew that the novel was dreadful and I was mortified.  Reg must have realised that after the first page, but typically never mentioned it again.  Tall and quietly spoken, a perfect gentleman, he could have been a hero in a classic detective story.  Except perhaps for his wicked and irreverent sense of humour.

Reg was one of the greats of British crime-writing, but he didn’t become a star overnight.  I first came across his work through a Radio 4 Woman’s Hour adaptation and even then his books weren’t widely available.  He kept his day job as a lecturer and perhaps because he bumped into people of all ages at work, his observational skills were brilliantly sharp.  He understood people’s frailties and petty jealousies and was one of the few writers in any genre who could make me laugh out loud.  Some authors can craft words well on a page but are less confident when they speak.  Reg was a superb speaker.  At one award ceremony he followed a writer who was somewhat long-winded and self-congratulatory.  In a few sentences Reg had the audience in stitches and cheering in admiration. Continue reading

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Book Review: The Death of Dalziel

By Yvonne Klein of Reviewing the Evidence

Introduction

Link to title on Amazon USA.

When I reviewed this (under its North American title, Death Comes For The Fat Man), a perennial tiff had surfaced in the papers regarding the relative merits of literary vs. genre fiction. It was a discussion that was to come to a bit of a boil a year or so later, at Harrogate, when John Banville announced that he could manage only 200 words a day when writing as himself, but as Benjamin Black, he could crank out 2,000. Appearing on the same panel, Reginald Hill gained a round of applause when he said, “When I get up in the morning, I ask my wife whether I should write a Booker prize winning novel, or another bestselling crime book. And we always come down on the side of the crime book.” Hill may have always turned to crime, but he was far from abandoning the literary, especially in the later novels and picking up his references, which his novels wore lightly, was one the great pleasures his work provided.

Review

On a warm Bank Holiday afternoon, Hector, a police constable not noted for his acute observation or articulate expression, thinks he hears something like a gunshot. He ambles into a dimly-lit shop where he is assured that all is well. But he does report the incident, more or less, and thus sets into train a series of events that will shortly see Andy Dalziel in hospital, uncertainly poised between life and death. Peter Pascoe, protected by Andy’s bulk from the full blast of the explosion, embarks on a single-minded and unorthodox investigation of the crime. Continue reading

The delights of re-reading Reginald Hill never diminish

By Pauline Rowson

Link to Amazon for re-issued PB in the UK.

I first discovered Reginald Hill in 1978. I was ill and my husband, home on leave from the armed forces, bought A Clubbable Woman (first published in 1970) to cheer me up.  From that moment on I was hooked not only on Dalziel and Pascoe but on everything Hill wrote. As soon as a new novel was published I’d be there buying it in hardback.

Reginald Hill is without doubt one of my favourite crime writers and a major inspiration behind my own crime writing career.  Clever and witty, you only have to read his Bio on his web site to get a glimpse of his style, “The year of my birth was 1936 and not long after the event, the king abdicated. Despite the rumours, the two events were probably not related”.

Although best known for his Dalziel and Pascoe novels I also love his thrillers, particularly The Long Kill, published in 1986 written under his pseudonym of Patrick Ruell, which features a retired hitman, Jaysmith, who soon discovers that retiring is not an option. Continue reading

‘Celebrating Reginald Hill’ Competition #2 now open

This week we are fiendish, devilish and setting a bigger challenge!

We hope you’ve continued to read this site with great enjoyment.  For competition #2 this week we are offering 3 sets of lucky dip paperbacks with 5 paperbacks in each.  If ever the opportunity to get really stuck into reading the work of Reginald Hill came along, this is it!

Again, many thanks to HarperCollins for the provision of the prizes.

*Rules* – because we have to…

To win, you have to answer the following five questions correctly to be entered into a draw.  Your answers should be emailed to crimewritingmonth at gmail dot com.  We will acknowledge receipt of entries sent within the deadline, within 24 hours of receipt – so do get in touch if you have not heard from us as gmail’s spam filter can be very aggressive.  The deadline for this competition is midnight (UK time) on Wednesday, 27 June.   The draw will take place on Sunday 1 July and the winners will be announced in the weekly round-up post at 18:00. This competition (#1) is open to entrants worldwide.  Winners will be contacted by email for their postal addresses which will be passed on to HarperCollins for despatch.

**The Questions** – because you have to…

Answers to all of the following questions can be found on this site, mainly from posts during the past week.  We hope you will enjoy scouring around to find them. (And do remember that there is a search box on the right hand side of the main page.)

Question 1

A quote from Dalziel: ‘I sometimes think I’d as gladly have a cupcake as a woman.’  But two words are wrong in that sentence; what are the correct words?

Question 2

When making his speech at the presentation of the inaugural Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award, who was holding Reg Hill’s trophy for him?  If you’re not from the UK, you’ll find another clue here.  (It’s the same man who hosted a rather famous event involving Reg Hill at Harrogate…)

Question 3

Name the walking dog that you can see on this page.

Question 4

In 2009 Reg Hill had still not received payment for what and from whom?

Question 5

A Cure for All Diseases was published in the US as The Price of Butcher’s Meat.   In Canada, which of the two titles was chosen for publication?

Good luck!

Review: The Woodcutter – Reginald Hill

Review by Vanda Symon of Overkill, from New Zealand

I read with great sadness that Reginald Hill had died early this year. He was huge in the world of crime fiction, bringing us a piece of Yorkshire with the Dalziel and Pascoe novels, but it wasn’t until I read his obituary that I realised that his writing ranged far further than crime, and that he’d also written historic fiction, thrillers, science fiction and another series – Joe Sixsmith. It also made me realise I hadn’t actually read any of his books. I’d seen the BBC adaptations of Dalziel and Pascoe, and in an odd kind of a way my mind had decided that because I’d seen the programmes, I’d therefore read the books. But we all know that is not the case!

It was time to remedy the situation. But where to start? The man had written over fifty novels! Normally I would start at the beginning, particularly if the writer had a series of books, but then with twenty-four Dalziel and Pascoe novels it was all a bit daunting. So I decided to start at the end, with The Woodcutter, the stand-alone thriller published in 2010.  I’d read some great reviews of the book, so thought I’d go with what people were calling one of his best.

Of course he had me with the first lines:

‘Summer 1963; Profumo disgraced; Ward dead; The Beatles’ Please please me top album; Luther King having his dream; JFK fast approaching the end of his; the Cold War at its chilliest; the Wind of Change blowing ever more strongly through Colonial Africa, with its rising blasts already being felt across the Gate of Tears in British-controlled Aden.’

Continue reading

Book Review and Tribute: Bones and Silence

By Jake Kerridge

Link to PB at Amazon UK.

Unlike some literary prizes (I’m looking at you, Booker), the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger has a noble record of rewarding the best writers for their best work. In theory then, Bones and Silence (1990), the only one of Hill’s novels to win the prize, ought to be his finest book. Julian Symons’s mighty history of crime fiction, Bloody Murder, also declared it to be Hill’s best.

I also have a sentimental reason for wanting to write about it here: it was the first Hill book I read. I was fourteen, I think, had gorged my way through pretty much all of Christie, Conan Doyle and the Father Brown stories, and was struggling to find books by contemporary crime writers that measured up.

Then I picked up a second-hand copy of Bones and Silence and my socks were blown off. Here was a writer who had much of the ingenuity of those old, dead guys I loved, but had more scope and ambition. He could be exciting, he could be moving, he could be funny, and often any combination of the three at the same time. Continue reading

Reginald Hill – a personal memory from N J Cooper

By Natasha Cooper

I first met Reginald Hill in the late 1990s when we were on the same panel at Dead on Deansgate in Manchester.  Reg had just published On Beulah Height, which is not only a wonderful crime novel but also an exploration of the nature and meaning of fatherhood.

My nerves were jittering because this was my first experience chairing a panel and I had admired Reg’s novels for years.  He instantly put me at my ease, telling me he was rather hungover.  I asked whether I should address him as Mr Hill on the panel or Reginald.  He laughed and said ‘Reg’.

Years later, I was invited to interview him at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate and I leapt at the chance.  We were on first thing on Saturday morning, but I had no fears about the size of the audience.  Reg was always one of the most popular speakers.  Because of the time, the organisers provided us with coffee and croissants, but we had so much to talk about that neither of us took a single mouthful.

Reg’s interests ranged so widely that there was never any subject on which he could not be both informative and funny.  And he was always deliciously funny.  However serious his novels, and a lot of them were very serious indeed, there were always jokes.

His brilliant creation of Superintendent Andy Dalziel provided a lot of the laughs.  Fat Andy, with his grotesque personal habits, scratching his backside on the corner of a desk, farting, swearing, addressing young women with the most outrageous sexism, could not have been further from the man Reg revealed himself to be.  And yet Fat Andy came out of Reg’s imagination.  I had this fantasy that one day I would find the question that would unlock some hidden chamber in his mind and he would come out with a wicked Dalzielism. Continue reading