One of the most erudite, funny, brilliant writers in today’s world of empty sentiments and repetitive story lines, Reginald Hill, has passed away. For those who have not read his work under his real and pen names, you have missed something very special. I was one who almost missed the boat. I attempted to read a Dalziel and Pascoe novel–featuring the two Yorkshire detectives- and wasn’t caught up the way I thought I should be. But, interesting enough, his series with Joe Sixsmith, a black man navigating the wilds of the UK, I found enjoyable and well worth reading. I also read one he wrote under the pen name, Patrick Ruell, Death of a Dormouse, but I remember being disappointed, because in my silliness, I thought that Alice in Wonderland would be part of the theme.
Finally, picking up a copy of one of the Daziel’s and Pascoe’s again, I became hooked, engrossed, enthralled with their differing characters, yet strong bond. The supporting players were just as detailed and rich. I finished one, went on to another, and another (which I lost, part way through) until I ran out of money or titles, I’m not certain which. I wasn’t aware he was ill. I had visions of myriad’s of reading pleasure to come. It is a great disappointment to realize it is not to be. And a sad one in knowing a gentleman such as him, no longer graces the earth.
From all accounts, he was not only a very gifted writer, but a very generous individual who enjoyed helping beginning writers. A modest man, he made a joke about not keeping track of how many books he had written over the years. He remarked ” I counted religiously till I got to 10, then in a more secular fashion till I got to 20, and after that I lost interest in keeping a tally. I mean, if 20 doesn’t mean you’re a real writer, then what number does?” His novels are filled with humor, sometimes geared more towards the area of English countryside he focused on, and not particularly understandable by those in the US. I can attest! All of his novels stand out from the crowded market, but three have retained their power. Two will be within my Best 100 Mysteries of All Time list. The third, was almost on it, I felt I couldn’t add that one too, I needed to give some other worthy author a chance.” The Wood Beyond, On Beulah Height, Pictures of Perfection.
It took quite some time for Reginald Hill to be recognized by the British crime community. Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger award was finally awarded to him 20 years after he began writing. Just short years later, he won the Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement. And his books weren’t turned into television fodder until late in the series. So many others had their books up on the small screen–Ruth Rendell, Peter Lovesy, P. D. James, Colin Dexter, Caroline Graham, Dick Francis–I could go on. Nonetheless, when it did arrive on TV, it was done with great detail and quality, something that Hill was relieved to find.
In the years I was active in the mystery field, I never met Mr. Hill, nor did I set up signings or send books to England to be signed. I’m not sure he did press junkets. It seems as though he stuck close to home. Not going to fan conventions, or literary gatherings. I blame my disinterest at the time– resulting in lack of inscribed titles, or having any contact. Had I read then what I’ve finished now, I would have found some way in which to speak and get an interview, especially while working for A&E mysteries.com.
It’s a error I’ll regret for some time.
Reginald Hill: “I still recall with delight as a teen-ager making the earth-shaking discovery that many of the great “serious novelists,” classical and modern, were as entertaining and interesting as the crime-writers I already loved. But it took another decade of maturation to reverse the equation and understand that many of the crime writers I had decided to grow out of were still as interesting and entertaining as the “serious novelists” I now revered”
To read an excellent obituary go here:
To read a summary of one of his books–a top mystery pick–go here: