Reginald Hill: A Tribute

In tribute to the remarkable life and work of bestselling crime writer Reginald Hill, our January ‘Book of the Month’ slot invites you to discover, or in many cases rediscover, Hill’s work for yourself.

A teller of tales from his earliest years, Reginald Hill had his creative epiphany aged seven when he discovered people actually got paid for making things up. From that day on he was always certain that one day he would become a writer. He spent many years as a teacher in Yorkshire which provided the inspiration and setting for the novels featuring the Falstaffian figure of Andy Dalziel, Head of Mid Yorkshire CID. In 1970 his first book, A Clubbable Woman, featured Dalziel and his more sensitive sidekick, Peter Pascoe. The series of 21 books featuring the ever-popular pair went from strength to strength and was turned into a hugely successful BBC television series featuring Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan.

Hill wrote over forty books in many genres, from historical novels to science fiction. His crime novels include the series featuring the likeable redundant lathe operator-turned-PI, Joe Sixsmith (Singing the Sadness, Killing the Lawyers, Blood Sympathy and Born Guilty) and several thrillers under the pseudonym, Patrick Ruell (The Only Game, Death of a Dormouse etc.)

Photo by Sam Atkins

As great admirers of his work, we at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, Harrogate were lucky enough to enjoy Reg’s support from our earliest days. Hill was one of the 40 authors who agreed to appear at the very first Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in 2003, without whom the Festival might never have got off the ground. Hill returned to the Festival two years later, in 2005, taking part in an ‘in conversation’ event with NJ (Natasha) Cooper. Cooper said: “Reginald Hill was one of the really great crime writers. He could do everything. He could do high lit and the most earthy demotic. He could do maths, music, German, Scandinavian folk tales, word games, jokes – such great jokes – pathos, drama, tragedy, sex, love, hate, and political rage. But, above all, he was the best storyteller in the business.”

Perhaps the Festival appearance people remember most is Hill’s 2009 ‘in conversation’ with John Banville. The event, hosted by Mark Lawson, gained column inches in the broadsheet press as quotes from both authors were repeated as evidence of an on-going divide in attitudes towards ‘crime’ and ‘literary’ fiction, but above all it was Hill’s warmth and wit which received most comment. You can listen to audio clips from the event for yourself  (simply scroll down to the bottom of this page to the first two clips in the player.)

Hill accepts 2010 Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. Pictured here with title sponsor Simon Theakston. Photo by Sam Atkins

At the 2010 Festival, we were absolutely thrilled and delighted to have the opportunity of presenting Reginald Hill with the inaugural Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction Award. The year marked a significant anniversary in Hill’s career – 40 years since the first appearance of one of the greatest detective teams in crime writing, Dalziel and Pascoe – and the award was a fitting tribute to Hill’s talents, achievements and the immense breadth of his works. The award, given in Hill’s most famous protagonists’ very own county of Yorkshire, was received with the most beautifully gracious and inspiring acceptance speech. You can hear the speech below (simply scroll down to the bottom of this page and click on the award audio clip.)

Ian Rankin and Mark Billingham were among the long list of crime writers paying tribute to Reginald Hill last week. Rankin wrote “[Hill was a] traditional crime writer, but with a modern sensibility. He had a lot of fun with his characters”. You can click here to read Ian and Mark’s thoughts in full.

Reacting to the news last week, two pieces by Mike Ripley (viewable here) and Jake Kerridge (available here), both moving tributes to Reginald Hill’s remarkable life, also do great justice to Hill’s memory as a talented and truly brilliant crime writer. In a piece published by the The Guardian last week, Ripley’s poignant account describes: All who met him thought of him as a gentle man as well as a proper gentleman. Those who knew him well appreciated his generosity of spirit, especially to new writers, and his sometimes wicked sense of humour.’ Kerridge, writing for The Telegraph in an article entitled ‘Reginald Hill: crime with a light touch’, also provides a wonderfully insightful viewpoint into Hill’s writing surmising ‘…although Hill cannot be replaced, he should be emulated.’

Listen to clips from Reginald Hill by harrogatecrimefestival