In praise and memory of Reginald Hill

by Stephen Tall on January 13, 2012

Reginald Hill, most famous as author of the Dalziel and Pascoe crime novels, died today.

Whenever I mention I’m a huge fan of Hill’s, I feel I almost have to apologise for the television series which made his characters famous. For such an enormous talent, Hill was peculiarly ill-served by TV. Most disastrously, ITV attempted an incarnation with Hale and Pace attempting to act straight in the title roles (with unsurprisingly, erm, mixed results).

They were soon followed by the perfect pairing of Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan, but unfortunately the shows were poorly produced. From memory, the debut programme was an adaptation of ‘An Advancement of Learning’ (1971), a novel that while good is very much ‘of its time’ — ie, dated — with the script playing up to every possible cliched schtick of PC-hippy student-dom. To the point of unwatchability.

Yet Hill’s series was a sublimely perfect creation which only improved with time. Indeed the most recent instalment, Midnight Fugue, was one of his best — I reviewed it (briefly) here. And I loved loved loved his last novel, The Woodcutter.

The Guardian carries a very nice obituary of a private man, an Oxford graduate, an award-winning writer, and (until yesterday) my absolute favourite living crime novelist:

Hill wrote crime novels in a particularly English way, with lots of jokes (something he searched for in vain in much Scandinavian crime writing) and an affection for northern, non-metropolitan settings. He could create fleshed-out, multi-dimensional characters without any apparent effort, a skill he attributed to his belief that he could never write about someone “who wasn’t interesting”. … Hill 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. We always come down on the side of the crime book.”