Tribute to Reginald Hill

Posted: January 20, 2012 in Book Awards, England, review, tv crime fiction

Sadly Reginald Hill died last week, and as a tribute I have reposted my review of Midnight Fugue, the last book in the wonderful Dalziel and Pascoe series.[original post 17 February 2010] I can’t remember how many of the Dalziel and Pascoe books I read, but I began to imagine Andy Dalziel in my mind’s eye as someone very similar in appearance and manner to a certain brusque Professor of Dental Medicine. I was very pleased when the character finally reached the TV screen  and was played  by Warren Clarke, who could have been the double of that esteemed professor. 

Reginald Hill succeeded in keeping his long running series fresh with an inventive approach and a wonderful sense of humour. On top of that his memory will always be cherished by crime fiction fans for his comments at Harrogate in discussion with John Banville [link here]. A clever defence of crime fiction against so called literary fiction.  Reginald Hill will be sorely missed. 

My review of Midnight Fugue:

I am a little late this week with posting my entry to the Crime Fiction Alphabet meme hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise simply because I have been distracted by other events. It is strange that you can go quietly along for months without very much happening, and then suddenly you are facing a few very significant weeks in your life. 

R is for Reginald Hill, who is one of the best of British crime writers of the past forty years. The winner of a CWA Diamond Dagger for Lifetime Achievement in 1995, he won a Gold Dagger in 1990 for Bones and Silence. Although he has written the Joe Sixsmith, and other novels, his main claim to fame are the brilliant Dalziel and Pascoe books which have been adapted for a popular TV series starring Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan.

There are twenty four books [one a selection of short stories] featuring Superintendent Andy Dalziel and DCI Peter Pascoe, and I have just finished reading Midnight Fugue, the most recent in the series.

Gina Wolfe’s husband Alex, a cop, went missing seven years ago, after an investigation for corruption, but now a magazine photo has been sent to her with a message on notepaper from the Keldale, one of Mid- Yorkshire’s poshest hotels. Her new boyfriend Commander Mick Purdy puts her in touch with the Fat Man, Andy Dalziel, who he thinks can be of assistance.
Andy is always ready to help an attractive blonde, but when he takes her to lunch at the Keldale, where coincidentally Pascoe and his wife Ellie are attending a christening party, he realizes that there are others on her trail.
The author tells a complex story from several different perspectives set over a period of 24 hours.
The plot involves a ruthless black entrepreneur, his handsome golden boy mixed-race Tory MP son, the MP’s personal assistant, a Welsh tabloid journalist, and a couple of psychopathic fixers sent out to make sure the past remains in the past.

This is a brilliant read, but the plot is also very transparent, and the author drops a pair of massive clues as to how everything will turn out early on in the narrative. They are about as subtle as Andy Dalziel reaching for a pint, but this does not spoil the story proving again that larger than life characters can make up for any plot deficiencies. I really enjoyed spotting the clues and working out the inevitable ending early on, and I think Reginald Hill intended the clues to be spotted, knowing it would give the reader a self satisfied glow of pleasure, as they enjoyed the wit and humour in the book.

……Loudwater Villas was a wasteland of derelict mills that successive Bunteresque city councils promised to transform into a twenty-first-century wonderland of flats and shops and sporting arenas as soon as this postal order they were expecting daily turned up.

Midnight Fugue is dominated by the wonderfully politically incorrect Andy Dalziel, who along with his team Peter Pascoe, Shirley “Ivor” Novello and Wieldy make this one of the best police series around.

‘But it tastes fine. Really.’
‘Well, I’ll try owt except for incest and the Lib Dems.’

One of the things I like about the current alphabet meme is that it is taking me either to new authors or back in Reginald Hill’s case to a favourite from the past, who I haven’t read for a long while. I will be back for more from this superb series.

‘I’ll have beef as well, luv, said Dalziel. ‘But I’ll have mine roast with Yorkshire pud and lots of spuds.’
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Comments
  1. Norman – Thanks for this wonderful tribute. Hill will be sorely missed…

  2. A great tribute, Norm.

  3. Bill Selnes says:

    Norman: Listening to the audio of him defending crime fiction makes me wish I could have known him. Thank you for the tribute.

  4. Norman says:

    Thanks Margot, Rhian and Bill.
    I loved the incident in one book [can’t remember which] when the new Assistant or Deputy Chief Constable turns out to be someone who was so useless that Fat Andy gave him a fantastic reference to get rid of him.

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