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Reginald Hill (1936 – 2012)

March 4, 2012

Last night I read the first chapter of a crime novel that looks like it’s going to be good.  But the significant thing, given my addiction to the genre, was the long gap in my crime-novel-reading since finishing the last one!  Short story and poetry anthologies I dipped into, volumes of letters too, but not one word of novel did I read in those three weeks.  Why?

Because the last crime novel I read, a long one, was so compelling, so brilliant, it took me that long to come down to earth sufficiently to engage with another author: that’s why!  The novel was Good Morning, Midnight by Reginald Hill, who died on 12th January 2012, aged 75.

I was about to withdraw the book from the library when a woman, seeing it in my hand, remarked, “I didn’t know he’d also written the Dalziel and Pascoe novels.”

ALSO written…

My dropped jaw probably looked pretty gormless, but I mean, really!  This was far and away Reg’s best known series having been very successfully dramatised on BBC television with Warren Clarke as the overweight, boorish Detective Superintendent Andrew Dalziel and Colin Buchanan as slim-line, liberal minded DCI Peter Pascoe.  Then I remembered that the temperamentally incompatible detective-duo of Mid-Yorkshire accounted for only 40% or so of Reg’s output.  Maybe the woman had read his thrillers, his Joe Sixsmith mysteries (featuring a black machinist turned PI) or his Captain Fantom romps? 

An English Literature graduate from St Catherine’s College, Oxford (where he had a rugby team mate called Dalziel, pronounced “Dee-ell”), Reg worked for many years as a schoolmaster and college lecturer, retiring in 1980 to write full-time.

I doubt there can ever have been a more erudite, literate, versatile talent working in the crime genre.  His vocabulary was amazing with terms such as mullock, nebbishness and matutinal abounding.  His plots were labyrinthine, his characters unforgettable, his humour often side-splitting.  Reg was a natural storyteller.  And, prolific though he was, using several pseudonyms in the past with subsequent re-publication under his own name, he was yet able to maintain a consistently high quality of output.  A stunning novelist, he was also a short story writer with few equals.

Reg won many awards and accolades including, in 1995, the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement.

A thoroughly nice chap he was too, by all accounts: a true gent with a generous spirit.  Reg is survived by his wife Pat.

Good Morning, Midnight takes its name from an Emily Dickinson poem.  Early in the novel, lecherous antique dealer Palinurus “Pal” Maciver is found dead in a locked room, slumped over a Dickinson volume open at the poem.  It seems he’s taken his own life with a shotgun, copying exactly the suicide of his father, businessman Pal Maciver Senior, ten years earlier…

I’ve a new Reginald Hill on my bookshelf now, his latest, a standalone thriller called The Woodcutter.  But I shall savour the anticipation for a little while longer yet, and read a few other authors, before re-immersing myself in the all too compelling world of Reg’s imagination.




© Copyright Paul Beech 2012


From → Biographical

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