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Author of the Month

Name: Reginald Hill

First Novel:

Most Recent Book: The Death of Dalziel

'… a substantial story, filled with plot and counterplot and complete with many layers of truth hidden beneath the action.'

Synopsis:
As the title intimates, Dalziel is not in his usual place directing the investigation into the huge semtex explosion which has put him in hospital. Pascoe takes over the reins and works with the security services to track down the perpetrators, although he is never completely committed to their view of events.

Several bloody murders are committed. Apparently by a secretive group calling themselves the Knights Templar. Their aim simply appears to be to deliver summary justice to those people whom they consider to be their enemies. Dalziel’s shadow is cast long over the whole course of action of the story. His colleagues fear for his life as he remains in a deep coma in hospital. Pascoe measures his progress against what Dalziel would have done as the great man himself drifts through levels of consciousness and dreams.

Numerous twists and turns culminate in a shocking and surprising finale.

Review:
As always, Reginald Hill provides us with a substantial story, filled with plot and counterplot and complete with many layers of truth hidden beneath the action. This time there is a different twist, as Pascoe has to develop his own investigative skills and grow into a more independent and assertive character without Dalziel to consult. Hill describes the psychological trauma and consequent increased maturity of Pascoe with a delicate and convincing touch.

The familiar characters of Ellie, Rosie and Wieldy provide welcome continuity from previous stories and it is interesting to see how each character reacts to the news of the seriousness of Dalziel’s condition. Only Rosie remains convinced of the invincibility of her godfather, although you will have to read the book to see whether her confidence is misplaced… The introduction of the Security Services adds to the excitement and interplay, while the jockeying for position between the police and the spooks is very convincing.

Any Dalziel and Pascoe fan will read this book with many conflicting emotions. One thing is absolutely certain. It’s a cracking tale, told by a master storyteller.

Reviewed by: S.D./S.W.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, even…) of crime novel would you say you write in?
They’re not hard-boiled and they’re not cosy; they’re not dark enough to be black and they’re not light enough to be comic…in fact the only sub-genre I’ve ever seen my books put into is Police Procedural, which I’m sure has caused many a hardworking cop to weep into his beer. To tell the truth I often feel that this kind of sub-classification does little more than give us all separate rooms in that great Crime ghetto some lit crits want us to languish in. But who cares so long as the service is good and the air-conditioning works?
2) Your books are substantial pieces of writing. How do you organise your time? Do you spend a fixed amount of time each day or aim to complete a certain number of words? Do you have a fixed routine before settling down to write?
I wake at 7, spend a certain period of time reassembling reality, get up, about 8, breakfast, take the dog for a short stroll around the garden, climb back upstairs to my study, switch my laptop on, and get up a head of steam by reading my last couple of paras from the day before, and then, with luck, I’m up and running till 1 o clock when I descend to lunch. And that – unless (which I try to avoid) I have let someone impose a deadline on me – is it as far as the physical act of writing goes, though I usually carry the story with me as I wander up hill and down dale for two or three hours in the afternoon with my dog. In my younger days when I still had the day job, I’d often be writing by 7am to get an hour or so in before heading for work. Curiously, I think I was even more productive then!
3) (Without giving away the ending…!) In The Death Of Dalziel had you firmly decided on the end before starting to write the book - or did it develop as you went along?
The ending as it relates to Andy Dalziel was there from the very beginning. The actual climax and the path to it, as usual, developed as the book went along.
4) Dalziel and Pascoe are into their 11th season on TV. Do you have any control over the scripts or storylines of the television series of Dalziel and Pascoe? How do you feel about the fact that some of your main characters have been given different life paths in the TV programme from the ones you have created over the years in your novels?
None whatsoever. Like children they have gone out into the big wide world and taken their own paths, not all of which I find pleasing, but they remain my children and I love them just the same. And of course like any parent I have them always in mind, with the one great advantage over a real-life parent that in my mind and therefore in my books they follow the paths that I have chosen for them! At first the divergence caused me some little pain, but gradually as I realised just how easily my hugely intelligent readers dealt with it, I was able to relax and even enjoy the Dr Who weirdness of observing people I knew intimately doing odd things in a parallel universe, One thing I never came close to was that last infirmity of a noble writer whose books have made it to the screen – letting the tail wag the dog. I have no control over their scripts and storylines, but at the same time they have no control over mine! 11th season you say? May it run forever!
5) Your last novel, The Stranger House, was a big hit with readers and reviewers alike. The characters were attractive and fascinating. Do you have any plans to write a sequel?
No, not a sequel as such, but I’ve got some ideas for another wide ranging narrative full of incident and adventure and, of course, a few laughs along the way. If I’m spared…!
6) Many of your chapter headings feature quotes from literary luminaries including Shakespeare and certain Greek philosophers - or snatches of poems from across the centuries. Does this indicate that you are a very well read man with very eclectic reading tastes? Do these headings require much separate research? What inspires you to have such marvellous headings to your chapters?
Well read? Widely read, certainly, though not in any systematic way. I enjoyed my university English course, mainly because it was a delightful voyage across a sea of words from A to Z, or rather B to C, i.e. Beowulf to the death of Coleridge. But I soon realised I wasn’t a scholar in the academic sense. I loved the books but wasn’t so fond of the books about the books, unless they themselves were in the same league. Flotsam and jetsam from the voyage washes up on the shore of my mind from time to time, unconsidered trifles which I snap up and often find a new use for. Occasionally my recollection is extremely vague – wasn’t there something in Malory or maybe it was Thomas Browne, that would fit in here? – and I have to go chasing after it , often to discover it was a Boojum after all! But that’s fun too. The great danger of course, as in looking up a word in the OED, is distraction. Something catches the eye, an hour passes, and you’ve forgotten what it was you started looking for. But I can never count this as time wasted. In the unlikely event I ever get asked, the OED is my Desert Island luxury. I don’t expect they’d let me count it as my extra book, would they?
7) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or another by another author - included your favourite plot twist of all time?
Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent left me gasping with amazement. It won a CWA Dagger in a year when I was short-listed, one of the few times I’d have voted for a book other than my own!
8) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Point Blank was great and I always enjoy The Killers, though of course that’s from a short story, not a novel. The Big Sleep is good, but it has to be that other Bogie masterpiece, The Maltese Falcon.
9) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I enjoy all kinds of fiction, including crime. Writers I look for include Michael Dibdin, Michael Connolly, Andrea Camilleri, Scott Turow, Elmore Leonard… in fact anyone who writes elegantly and entertainingly.
10) What is your favourite crime read of all time?
You mean, which crime novel would I take on my desert island? Is it cheating to say Bleak House? Or The Eustace Diamonds? I don’t think so, though I think the above mentioned lit crits would have us believe that, by definition, great works of Eng Lit can never be crime fiction. Sad really.