Reginald Hill, author of the Peter Pascoe and Andy Dalziel mystery series, passed away on January 12, 2012 at the age of 75 from a brain tumor. He was the son of the professional soccer player Reg Hill, who played for what is now Hartlepool United F.C. during the Great Depression.
Hill grew up an avid reader, encouraged in the mystery genre by his mother. After attending St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he studied English, Hill became a lecturer at a teacher’s college and began writing. His first Pascoe and Dalziel novel, A Clubbable Woman, appeared in 1970. During that first decade as an author, he wrote two to three novels a year, though never more than one a year about the Yorkshire detectives. In 1980, he left teaching to write full-time.
Best remembered for the series of books featuring mild-mannered Peter Pascoe and irascible Andy Dalziel, also known as “Fat Andy”, Hill also wrote another 30 novels, including standalones and another series featuring private investigator Joe Sixsmith. However, the 20-plus novels of Pascoe and Dalziel are still the fan favorites, best remembered from the BBC television series that spanned over a decade.
While Hill preferred to be called a “crime writer,” his roots in traditional mysteries are evident. Even so, his books are unique to the genre. While Dalziel outranks Pascoe, the duo does not fit into the Holmes-Watson mold. Each man is equal to the other, yet different. While the protagonists are members of the Yorkshire police, their novels are not police procedurals. Like Christie, Hill could deftly place a clue where it would be seen, allowing the reader to continue without realizing its importance.
Hill was not afraid to tackle social issues in these novels, setting On Beulah Height against the backdrop of a village that had been evacuated for a dam. Good Morning Midnight, whose title comes from a poem by Emily Dickinson, starts with a simple problem of why would a man kill himself in the same place and manner as his father, yet ends up with a case of corporate malfeasance and arms dealings.
Hill was also known for his dry wit. After the TV producers opted not to include Pascoe’s wife, Ellie, in the series, Hill wrote Arms and the Women, which heavily featured Ellie and her life, daring the producers to adapt the novel to television. (It seems they didn’t accept the challenge.)
Hill won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger award, for Bones and Silence in 1990 and the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement in 1995.
Hill lived in Cumbria with his wife, Pat, who survives him, and their many pets. One final novel was completed, but not published prior to his death. It will appear in 2013.
Jeffrey Marks is a long-time mystery aficionado and freelance writer. He is the biographer of mystery writer Craig Rice (Who Was That Lady?) and author of Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s. His biography of mystery author and critic Anthony Boucher, titled Anthony Boucher, has been nominated for an Agatha award and fittingly, won an Anthony. He is currently completing a biography of Erle Stanley Gardner. Marks is the long-time moderator of MurderMustAdvertise, an on-line discussion group dedicated to book marketing and public relations, and author of Intent to Sell: Marketing the Genre Novel, the only how-to book for promoting genre fiction. His work has won a number of awards including the Barnes and Noble Prize, and he was nominated for a Maxwell award (DWAA), an Edgar (MWA), three Agathas (Malice Domestic), two Macavity awards, and three Anthony awards (Bouchercon).