Guest Post – Michael Wood: Serial Heroes
Day 4 of Serial Heroes. So far we have had Serial Killers and Hannibal from Steven Dunne. Caroline Mitchell brought Stephen King to the party – and that can only be a good thing! Yesterday Alan Jones shared Ian Fleming’s licence to thrill and gave us James Bond.
Today I am delighted to be joined by Michael Wood who has picked a much loved duo from one of the finest crime writers I have read:
I am not just a crime fiction writer, I’m a crime fiction reader. In fact, I devour the genre, and have done since I was a young teenager. I love series crime fiction and one of my all-time favourites is the Dalziel and Pascoe series by the late Reginald Hill.
We were first introduced to Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe in A Clubbable Woman (1970). A fresh-faced university graduate and a toughened, no-nonsense detective were thrown together to investigate the murder of a rugby player’s wife in the heart of Yorkshire. By today’s standards, the ‘opposites attract’ double act may seem cliche but in the 1970s it was a stark contrast staple of crime writing. And it worked.
Why did it work here? Because the man behind the words was Reginald Hill. He wasn’t just a storyteller, a creator of mysteries and plots, he was a wordsmith and a pioneer of the genre. His novels were literary and rich and every word felt like it was carefully chosen. There was no filler, no voyeuristic sensationalism, just pure drama written with heart and genuine likeable characters. Every book was multi-layered: a dark story, a labyrinthine plot with a host of supporting characters – some stuck around for more than one novel, others just a guest appearance, but all of them were well-rounded and deep. The victims, you cared for; the villains, you loathed. Reginald Hill made his novels seem simple as the plot and words flowed almost effortlessly, but you knew they were well researched, well thought out and lovingly written.
So creative and seminal was Reginald Hill that he wrote a short story in which Dalziel and Pascoe investigated the first murder committed on the moon (One Small Step, 1990). In the hands of a lesser crime writer this would have seemed far-fetched and pathetic. In Hill’s dangerously capable hands it was a subtle and engaging story.
To support Dalziel and Pascoe, Hill created DS Edgar Wield, a dour-faced detective who was often in the middle of the titular characters’ many clashes and Peter’s wife, Ellie Pascoe, who had to support her husband and listen to his many rants about his irascible boss. However, unlike many supporting characters in series novels, Edgar and Ellie were very well written, and, on occasion, proved central to the plot.
In his career, Reginald Hill wrote 45 novels, 23 of them featured Dalziel and Pascoe. In 1990 he won the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger Award for Bones and Silence. My favourite of the series is On Beulah Height from 1998 – a dark and unsettling story, tensely and expertly written. It is in my top ten crime fiction novels of all time and I have lost count of the many times I have read this particular book. In fact, I’ve had to buy it more than once to replace a well-thumbed copy.
Reginald Hill died in January 2012. His last Dalziel and Pascoe novel, Midnight Fugue, was published in 2009. It wasn’t the final novel. We didn’t get to say goodbye to the gruff detective and his sensitive sidekick (Dalziel wouldn’t have liked a soppy send-off anyway) but, like all the others, it was a deftly written and a thoroughly enjoyable thriller.
Hill’s legacy will live on in his great writing. I shall continue to read the Dalziel and Pascoe series for many years to come. Without them to influence me, I wouldn’t be a crime writer. I will never be as good as Reginald, but his work will always be an inspiration.
Michael Wood’s Amazon page is here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B015CWYVFA/ref=dp_byline_sr_ebooks_1?ie=UTF8&text=Michael+Wood&search-alias=digital-text&field-author=Michael+Wood&sort=relevancerank where you can order copies of both his books.
On 26th May Michael’s new OUTSIDE LOOKING IN is released – you can order that here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Outside-Looking-darkly-compelling-shocking-ebook/dp/B01BS9XGOS?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc