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How the hell did I ever miss these for the past twenty years?
When I was a deal younger I used to watch a TV series called Dalziel and Pascoe and, while I quite enjoyed it, it never seemed distinctive or clever enough for me to bother looking up the books. After all, it was merely a riff on the mismatched partners (the crude and rude and Old Fashioned versus the young and clever and highly-educated) theme.

My bad.

Now we've joined the library again, I've resolved to start reading books I wouldn't normally buy. As the first of the Dalziel and Pascoe books, A Clubbable Woman was available when I first went in, I figured it was worth a look. Apart from the fact that it was technically very well written, and that Reginald Hill had got the Yorkshire accent and attitudes down pat, it confirmed much of what I'd thought about the TV series, but did seem fun (if only for the Dalzielisms, which made me, even at that stage, think "Gene Hunt, eat your heart out.")

So when I saw another novel in the series on sale for a quid in a charity shop, I decided to buy it.

Oh my…

It came from much, much later in the series, and was entitled Dialogues of the Dead. With its sequel, Death's Jest Book (and they really are one long narrative) it forms one of the most brilliant and original detective novels I have read for years, a tour de force of genre fiction. It is chock-full of literary jokes, unreliable point of view characters, authentic and hilarious Yorkshire dialogue, wonderfully bizarre murders, terrible/wonderful puns, off the wall storytelling, and deeply authentic characterisation. It's an intellectual joy. (I'll sure I didn't get even half the references.)

The TV series tuned down both Dalziel and Pascoe. The Fat Man (or Fat Andy - nothing PC about the Mid-Yorkshire force) is one of the great detectives of fiction, with echoes of the great HM, if HM has been working class and a coarse bugger. Pascoe is sharp as a whip, but with a deeply obsessive personality and a tendency to keep an idea in his head for, far, far longer than necessary.

For my money, these late Dalziel and Pascoe books by Reginald Hill actually beat even P.D. James for quality of plotting and characterisation. I love them to death.

We might even be able to claim then as slipstream. Certainly, in The Death of Dalziel one character has what we must take to be a genuine out of body experience, and another appears psychic enough to see the 'spirit' during same.

One of the things I love most about them is there is never any hint of dumbing down. Very little is signalled. You have to be alert. For instance, a review of Death's Jest Book remarks on the "open ending". Well, no, it isn't. You might well think so, if you didn't notice that sub-header of the last extract from the "biography" of the "poet" that has run through the book and now ends it… Less than half a dozen words in italics kill that 'open ending' stone dead.

I am very much looking forward to A Cure for All Diseases which I am given to understand is also a pastiche of Sanditon.

Oh, did I mention that all these books are often laugh-out-loud funny.

Yes, I'm squeeing! I have over a dozen books to read that I am going to enjoy. Squee!

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Hill is one of my favourite crime writers. He's 20-whatever books into the series and each one is fresh as a daisy and just exudes enthusiasm and humour. The TV series never did the books justice. The first time one was dramatised, ITV had Hale and Pace as Dalziel and Pascoe, for heaven's sake! The BBC version was better -- Warren Clarke was born to play Dalziel, but I didn't care for the bloke who played Pascoe (too arsy and edgy, which Pascoe isn't). And he looks like Alan Shearer *g*.

Yes, they're hilarious. And Hill's love of language is contagious *g*.

I think my favourite in the series is Underworld, which shows the scars of the miners' strike. A Cure for All Disease is very clever indeed.

I'm furious with myself for missing out on them all these years. Reading Deadheads at the moment, with The Wood Beyond waiting - but I also have a David Hewson waiting, and he's awesome in an entirely different way.

I re-read Deadheads recently for some research I was doing, and very much enjoyed it. Nicely paced and under-stated.

Hewson I can take or leave. I like the characters and the setting, but I have problems with his distant writing style -- the books have never quite engaged me.

With Hewson it is the pictures he draws - scenes that leap to life out of the page - that fascinate me. Also, I came to him out of Donna Leon, and it was such a relief to hit an Italy that sounded real rather than the toned-down version in the rather syrupy Leon books.

I've never managed to finish one of Leon's books. Gianrico Carofiglio I rate -- much more on the noir side, though.

Deadheads is one of my favourites. Actually, I love the middle books best, from Exit Lines to about The Wood Beyond.

Better than PD James? OF COURSE he is! Hill is brilliant!

He is often very well spoken off in books on detective fiction.

Deservedly so. Ina informs me that Dialogues of the Dead is one of the books on the (very) long list for the missing Booker.

I like them hugely. It's a treat to read something clever and literary but not up It's own arse

As Fat Andy would say... [grin]

As he would.

I like Fat Andy.

Fat Andy / Lord Peter Wimsey crossover would just be the biggest hoot.

I read my first Hill ages ago on the day my flat was burgled. The lock was busted, I had to sleep alone in the flat and was terrified and very upset. I picked up Exit Lines, and spent the night engrossed in it.

I thought Dalziel was a deliberate send-up of Dalgliesh. I don't think it is, but the more I warmed to Dalziel, coarse, working-class, deliberately offensive, and able to outsmart everybody around him, the more I grew to dislike the cool aristocratic snobbishness of Dalgliesh.

The most uncompromisingly dark of the books is Bones and Silence. Gee, that is a book that doesn't pull any punches.

In that Dalgliesh is, himself, something of a parody of 30s aristocratic policemen and, in particular, Marsh's 'Inspector Alleyn' books (it was not until I was recently reading Spinsters in Jeopardy that I realised that Alleyn also wrote and published poetry), I must admit that I don't see the Dalgliesh connection. Dalziel is much more like Carter Dickson/John Dickson Carr's heroes and, in particular, HM. Henry Merrivale also carries his corpulence before him, speaks his mind, is impossible to embarrass, and also has a flair for... er... direct speech, though Carr, whose first HM novel was published in 1934, could not use the sort of vocabulary employed by Hill. Of course, HM is the opposite of Dalziel in that he is a baronet and a Socialist and, at one time, head of the Secret Service, but then Carr specialised in Locked Rooms and Hill, as far as I can see, is not terribly interested in that aspect of the genre.

James is writing in a particular tradition that is only a few steps away from cosy, while Hill is far more realistic and far, far, more innovative.

Thanks for the recommendation- I'm always on the look out for interesting new books. I've started reading sone of Iain Rankin's books, (which I thoroughly recommend, by the way) but I'll keep my eyes peeled for Hill as well now.

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There is an argument, made by far more erudite literary critics than I could ever claim to be, that the 20th Century British detective novel represents the true continuation of the tradition of the 19th century novel (i.e. Dickens, Austen, and so on.) While it isn't really true, there is a hint of truth in it.

Christie is a "pure puzzle" writer, has a very simple and direct style, and is very much of her time. There is nothing of realism in her books. Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers are better writers of the same period (what you might call the 'gifted amateur' school), and John Dickson Carr the epitome of 'locked room' puzzles. I am not surprised you found Christie a little disappointing. Her legacy lies with what are known as the "cozies" - (mainly American) murder mysteries that are, to be honest, mind pap. (Though I have a great fondness for the often-hilarious Donna Andrews.)

You might have a look at what the other commentators on this thread, who know Regiinald Hill's writing better than I do, have to say.

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