Reginald Hill (EXCERPTS)
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over thirty years, Reginald Hill has been recognised as one of the most
versatile, inventive, and prolific crime writers. He is a seasoned author with
scores of novels and short stories to his credit, yet he consistently proves
with each new novel that, not only is he at the top of his game, he keeps
Hill is best known for creating the crime-solving team of hard-talking,
overbearing Superindent Andy Dalziel and urbane, progressive Detective Inspector
Peter Pascoe. Starting in 1970, with the publication of
A Clubbable Woman, this odd couple
has been featured in nineteen novels—all of which have been successfully adapted
for television by the BBC. Hill has
also written a series of short stories based on Luton
private eye, Joe Sixsmith and he has published several stand-alone novels under
his own name and under the name, Patrick Ruell. He is an accomplished exponent
of the short form as well, and his canvas is broad with stories like, “The Rio
de Janeiro Paper” (1979), “On The Psychiatrist’s Couch” (1997), and “The Game of
Dog” (2004), as well as an enjoyable Sherlockian pastiche, “The Italian Sherlock
Throughout his career he has won several
awards, including the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger in 1991, for
Bones and Silence, and in 1995 the
CWA Cartier Diamond Dagger for his outstanding contribution to crime fiction.
But for all his range of achievements, few would disagree that much of his best
work is to be found in the Dalziel and Pascoe series.
Throughout the series Hill has continued to experiment, and the result is that
he has done more than merely avoid staleness and eschew formula—he has provided
a marvellous illustration of the potential of the long-running detective series.
Each book stands on its own merits, but those who take the trouble to read the
novels in chronological sequence are likely to find their pleasure further
enhanced as they see the development not only of the characters, but also of
this writer’s considerable skills.
For ingenuity, wit and insight, he has few peers.
Hill’s latest Dalziel and Pascoe novel,
Death Comes for the Fat
was released in March by HarperCollins.
Reginald Hill lives in Ravenglass, Cumbria,
with his wife Pat.
AFG: There’s a
lot of buzz about your newest book, Death
Comes for the Fat Man. Tell our readers what it’s about.
Yeah, well I suppose there are two ways of
looking at it for the old fans of the series. The big question on this side of
the water is does death really come for Andy Dalziel? The question is posed ever
more dramatically, because the book’s called
The Death of Dalziel. But for some
reason my American publishers didn’t feel the American market was quite ready
for such directness, so they called it
Death Comes for the Fat Man, which, of course, is a glance at the famous
Willa Cather title Death Comes for the
Archbishop. So I mean that’s the fan hook, which I hope will attract readers
to see whether Andy really does get pushed over the Reichenbach Falls
[laughs]. The other thing that it is about is this growing terrorist threat. I
don’t know how it reverberates over there, but over here the government is
becoming increasingly concerned, about the terrorist threat with the London bombings and the attempted London bombings. We’ve just got a trial on now
for the failed series of bombings which happily didn’t come off last year, and
everyone’s very aware that it’s not just something you read about in faraway
places—it’s right on our doorstep. So I began thinking about the nature of the
possible backlash. You get it, of course, to some extent in poor, innocent
Muslim communities which are being targeted by nuts.
AFG: Yeah, the
innocent people always end up getting it.
Yes. But I wondered, what if someone within
the security services began to target people who weren’t innocent, because they
were pretty certain these people were guilty of something—of support or of
terrorist activity—but were still beyond the reach of the law, because there
wasn’t enough evidence against them. In other words, some kind of vigilante
movement within the security service. That’s how the idea started and that’s
what the book is about. With, of course, the added interest that Andy Dalziel
gets inadvertently caught up in this at the beginning and put into a coma. So
will Dalziel survive? And will Pascoe be able to track down the perpetrators of
this act? And he soon gets the feeling that someone in his own security service
isn’t really playing ball with him.
AFG: So Dalziel
goes into a coma at the beginning.
Dalziel gets put into a coma at the end of the first chapter when, unexpectedly,
he gets blown up. And so does Pascoe, but Pascoe survives. There’s not very much
hope for Dalziel. But he is still very much a presence in the book, because, as
you know, from time to time we go to Dalziel in a kind of
stream-of-consciousness way, and you get some notion of where he is—he’s sort of
only in that never-never land floating between life and death. He’s got some
awareness sometimes about what’s going on around him but as for his reactions,
he can’t respond in any way that anyone can see; that is, except by letting out
the occasional fart [laughs]. But
when he becomes distantly aware that someone is actually praying for him, it
really gets up his nose being a deeply anti-religious man. So Dalziel remains a
very serious presence in the book, even though throughout it he is well on the
verge of death. And as I say, the big question for the old Dalziel and Pascoe
fans is, is this the end of Andy Dalziel?
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