In pursuit of a crime writer: investigating Reginald Hill

Good Morning, Midnight by Reginald HillEven if you don’t recognise the name you may be familiar with the work of Reginald Hill whose Dalziel & Pascoe series of crime novels was televised by ITV.

Set in Yorkshire, the strength of both novels and TV series was the interplay between the two contrasting characters. As an avid reader of crime novels it has struck me that crime novelists usually either go with the ‘antisocial loner’ or create a partnership between two main characters. The setup of a lead character and sidekick worked for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – why change a winning formula?

Reginald Hill died fairly recently and I thought it would be interesting to find out more about the author using the library. My first step was to read the blurb printed in his novels. Westminster Libraries stock a large number of his books so this information was not hard to find. If you are searching the Westminster library catalogue, many entries include the heading ‘Author Notes’ beneath the item’s details. This contains a brief biographical outline.

The next step was to use Westminster Libraries 24/7 library resources to obtain further information. I consulted Who’s Who / Who Was Who and drew a blank (plenty of other Reginald Hills feature, but not this one). His absence was not due to the compilers’ aversion to crime and thriller writers. Anthony Price, a contemporary of Reginald Hill, has been listed for many years, and other crime writers such as Ian Rankin are also included. I can only conclude that Mr Hill did not wish to be included in this directory as potential subjects are approached by the editors and the entry is compiled from information received.

The other major 24/7 biographical resource used to check for deceased authors is the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, but currently people have to have died before 31 December 2010 to be included – Reginald Hill died in 2012.

As my subject was an author the obvious resource to check within the 24/7 library is Contemporary Authors which includes dead and living authors. Author entries include not only a list of their published titles (these lists also helpfully includes any US alternative titles) but also includes any author pseudonyms and their titles. The main part of an entry is a discussion of the author’s work including citations of reviews and links to relevant websites relating to the author and their work.

Reginald Hill died on 12 January 2012. Several newspaper obituaries were published immediately after his death. These can be read using Newsbank or other online newspaper archives. Several references to the author and the Dalziel & Pascoe series can also be found using Newsbank. Note however that many of the search hits refer to the TV listings of the Dalziel & Pascoe series rather than articles about the author and his books. One interesting article, found in the Guardian & Observer Archive was a discussion of television adaptations of crime novels and their authors’ feelings about them. Reginald Hill hated the ITV pilot episode which starred the comedians Hale and Pace. [Observer 16 April 2000. Tina Ogle – “Even the Gumshoes”]. Later the BBC successfully re-launched the Dalziel & Pascoe series and cast Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan in the title roles.

Magnifying glassThis brief investigation of one crime author gave me plenty of leads to follow, and the combination of hard copy evidence and online resources can help you to build up a profile of an individual too, whether you’re a detective, a fan, or both.

[Francis]

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