Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Reginald Hill


In discussing Peter Robinson yesterday, I mentioned that he and I first met at a CWA Northern Chapter meeting. At it was at the inaugural lunch of the Chapter, in Borougbridge, back in 1987, that I first met one of the finest crime writers of the last forty years. Reginald Hill has, since then, been something of an inspiration to me.

I’d read some of Reg’s books before that first meeting, and I enjoyed the way he combined intricate plotting with witty characterisation. He was, and will no doubt remain, best known for his books about Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe, but his other books should definitely not be overlooked. For example, a thriller that originally appeared under the pen-name of Patrick Ruell, The Only Game, is a terrific piece of work that I certainly recommend.

As a writer, he has gone from strength to strength. Bones and Silence was a magnificent piece of work, but arguably he topped it with On Beulah Height. And then, some might say (and I would agree) that Dialogues of the Dead is even better. He is extraordinarily prolific, yet he remains committed to quality of story. His short fiction is superb, and I’ll write about this on another occasion.

Reg and his wife Pat are invariably good company, and I suffered with them as the original Yorkshire TV series of Dalziel and Pascoe, starring the comedians Hale and Pace, proved to be distinctly underwhelming. Happily, the BBC made a much better fist of it, and I had the happy experience of attending the preview at the RSA in London of the very first episode, ‘A Clubbable Woman’.

I’ve been reading Reg’s latest novel over the last couple of weeks, and a review will appear here shortly. The book is called The Woodcutter, and it doesn’t feature Dalziel and Pascoe. But the central character does have some of Fat Andy’s charisma, as well as one or two dark secrets.

13 comments:

seana said...

I've read only a few, but they were excellent. I know people who've gone much further, tracking down every copy they could. It's probably time to give another one a go sometime soon.

Michael Walters said...

I'm one of those who's read nearly everything he's ever published (not quite everything because he's so extraordinarily prolific - but I have also read many of the books he wrote as Patrick Ruell, Dick Morland and others). I think his output is genuinely astonishing - not just for its sheer volume, but because it's never less than excellent. At his very best - 'The Wood Beyond', for example - I think he's as good as anybody currently writing. I envy you getting your hands on the new one, Martin!

Deb said...

I've been reading Hill's work for years and love his word play, wonderfully byzantine plots, and the essential humanity of Dalziel that shines through. I must say I was a bit disappointed with THE PRICE OF BUTCHER'S MEAT--I thought the dueling narrations (and the attempts to duplicate a young woman's awful grammar and spelling in emails) detracted from what was sure to be a great story. But as always I have his latest on my tbr list.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Martin--"He is extraordinarily prolific, yet he remains committed to quality of story." What a great thing to say about someone! That's what I aspire to, as well--put a good number of books out there (and hopefully, eventually, in a variety of mystery subgenres) and have the story be just as strong from book to book. Reg Hill sounds like a great friend as well as a great writer.

Martin Edwards said...

Seana and Michael, yes, he is one of the best of this or any other era.

Martin Edwards said...

Deb, I haven't read that one. The new book is really good.

Martin Edwards said...

Elizabeth, I think Reg is a good illustration of how it is indeed possible to succeed, as I'm sure you will, with a range of different types of fiction.

seana said...

Yes, Michael, The Woods Beyond was one of the books that made me realize what a high level he writes at.

Alistair Macfarlane said...

I have never read his works at all.
Time to head over to Amazon!

Janet O'Kane said...

Reginald Hill has always struck me as being a real gentleman, so it was particularly enjoyable to witness him demolish (ever so politely) 'literary' author John Banville's pretensions at Harrogate last year.

Anonymous said...

I HAVE JUST FINISHED READING "THE WOODCUTTER". JUST TWO WORDS FOR MR HILL - THANK YOU.

Anonymous said...

Well I didn't like the 'Woodcutter' this author over indulges the plot, everything but the kitchen sink goes in. He plays to the readers' prejudices which annoys me profusely.

Ed Chocolate said...

I have just finished 'Dialogues of The Dead', I couldn't recommend it high enough... Reginald Hill is the antidote for those who have been astray from fiction for a while. If you only read one more book in your life, then choose this one! You won't be disappointed.