Reginald Hill:Crime writer best known for hisdetectives Dalziel and Pascoe

 

In a 1993 interview with The Independent, the best-selling crime writer Reginald Hill said: "It is easy to mystify. The good mystery writer's real skill lies in clarification." At the time he was in his 23rd year as a published author but was less generally known than he deserved to be for his series of cunningly constructed mysteries featuring Dalziel and Pascoe. That changed when, in 1996, 11 years of successful TV productions began. The 20-odd Dalziel and Pascoe novels were less than half of Hill's output but he long recognised them as his "bankers". The two characters he created – a modern pairing of Falstaff and Hal – are probably the most interesting characters in modern crime fiction.

Reginald Charles Hill was born in Hartlepool, Co Durham, in 1936. His father was a professional footballer for the town's club. Hill wrote of the town, with typical humour, that its main claim to fame "is that its inhabitants are alleged to have put a shipwrecked monkey on trial during the Napoleonic wars and when it answered all their questions in what they presumed was French, they hanged it as a spy."

At the outbreak of the war his father moved the family when Hill was three, to Cumberland. Hill had two brothers, David and Desmond. His mother was a keen reader, especially of crime fiction, and Hill always said he discovered books collecting them for his mother from the library. Hill was educated from 1947 at what was then the Carlisle Grammar School. Between 1955 and 1957 he did his National Service in Germany.

Demobbed, he studied English at St Catherine's College, Oxford, then taught in Essex: "Armed with a degree in English, I stepped trembling into the real world and found it occupied a space somewhere between the idiocies of the army and the absurdities of Oxford."

At Oxford he had played rugby with a middle-class man whose name was pronounced "De-ell". "It took me a little time to realise this chap, who I was putting my arms around in the scrum, was the same as the person listed on the team sheet as 'Dalziel'. Later when I was looking for a gross Northern copper, I thought how amusing it would be to call him after my rather smooth middle-class friend." He married Patricia Ruell in 1960. They'd known each other for 10 years and remained married until his death. He shifted from schools to college, lecturing at the Doncaster College of Education, Yorkshire, where he remained through the 1960s and '70s.

He recalled: "I had been making up stories as long as I could remember, and writing them down as long as I could write. I had known I would one day become a writer in the full sense ever since I reached an age when looking into the future took me beyond an interest in what I was likely to be getting for tea."

The dozen or so novels he wrote in the 1960s were rejected but he had success in 1970 with his first Dalziel and Pascoe, A Clubbable Woman: "It was as if a block had been removed. I had two published in 1971 and three in 1972. I didn't wait for the heavy thud as the manuscript came back through the door – I started the next one. I can't think where I got the energy for it all."

In the '70s he produced 18 novels, short stories and a play, An Affair of Honour, for the BBC, and a comedy sketch for Dave Allen. He also wrote as Patrick Ruell, Dick Morland and Charles Underhill as well as Reginald Hill.

In 1980 he retired from lecturing to write full time. The hallmark of his novels is that they are intricately plotted, beginning with disparate strands which he weaves together by the final chapter. In the best of them, such as Bones and Silence, An April Shroud or Beulah Heights, even when you think he has given you all the answers, there is always one more thing he tells you that you didn't realise you didn't know.

He explained: "Plot is the basis of narrative interest, the force that drives the reader along paths which seem totally mysterious ahead, but which appear clear as day behind."

Dalziel (large, loud and often loutish) and Pascoe (a social science graduate with a radical wife) represented two sides of his own personality. "When I started I was more inclined towards Pascoe, because I wanted to write about someone like me who might have joined the police after university. Dalziel has shouldered his way centre stage, however." Dalziel often comes across as a stage-Yorkshiremen, blunt, beefy and boorish. "But he can also be sensitive, charming and courteous," Hill argued. "And really Dalziel and Pascoe are one person. I'd like to be Pascoe but Dalziel is always there waiting to burst out."

In 1990 he won the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger award for Bones and Silence and in 1995 the Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to crime fiction.

Yorkshire Television held the rights to Dalziel and Pascoe for many years. Hill had always seen Brian Blessed as the perfect Dalziel, though in the pilot, A Pinch of Snuff, the detectives were played by the comedians Hale and Pace. It was a disaster and ordinarily that would have been it. But in 1996 the books were picked up by the BBC.

When the company decided to cut Pascoe's wife Ellie from the series, he wrote his next Dalziel and Pascoe, Arms and the Woman, from her viewpoint. Off-stage at the Edinburgh Book Festival that year he said: "Let's see them film that." His most recent Dalziel and Pascoe was published in 2009. Hill said: "I write on a need-to-know basis and my need to know is much greater than that of the readers. I write hundreds of pages too much and then cut it down."

He was the most literate of writers and enjoyed playing around with literature in his novels. But he was no literary snob. Several years ago at a crime festival he was on a panel with the literary writer John Banville (aka crime writer Benjamin Black). Banville was saying how each day he didn't know whether to carve out a few well-honed sentences for a literary novel or write a couple of thousand words for a Benjamin Black. Hill agreed. "I know – every morning I say to my wife, 'Shall I work on my Booker novel today or my best-selling crime novel? But you know, it's funny – every day I say I think I'll do the best-seller." Thank goodness he did.

Reginald Hill, teacher and writer: born Hartlepool 3 April 1936; married Patricia Ruell; died 12 January 2012.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence