Does everyone in the English-speaking world know how great a writer Reginald Hill is? Man, the man can write.
I’ve just started his latest Dalziel/Pascoe police procedural set in Yorkshire, Death Comes for the Fat Man (2007), and already am reveling in his feel for language, his dialogue, his instinct for the subtleties of human nature, his wit. And the plotting, not my prime interest in any book or film, is superb; as the Wikipedia entry on Hill notes, “Clues may also be provided in such a way that readers sail past them, only realising at the end how their own assumptions have been exposed.” Can’t get enough practice in having my assumptions exposed!
If he didn’t already have me, he would have had me at the inscription for this book: “For the peacemakers — whichever god’s children they are –“ That’s a line that could be discussed for hours, for days, for centuries.
I’ve recorded here what I think are some of the best phrases, exchanges, etc.
“A few weeks ago, [Hector] had appeared with his skull cropped so close he made Bruce Willis look like Esau, prompting Dalziel to say, ‘I always thought tha’d be the death of me, Hec, but there’s no need to go around looking like the bugger!'” (p.9)
“He snorted. His wife was a very good snorter, Dalziel could snort for Denmark, even Wield who rarely let any uncensored emotion escape has been known to aspirate expressively, but the snort hadn’t figured much in the sonic range of a man sometimes referred to by his fat boss as Pussyfoot Pascoe, the Tightrope Dancer.
“Now, however, it emerged as if he’d been a snorter from birth, equine rather than porcine in nature it was true, but powerful and unambiguous for all that.
“‘Useful? I’ve spent more time usefully reading Martin Amis,’ he sneered.”
“Coincidence? What was the Gospel According to St. Andy said?
“Bump into your best mate coming out of the Black Bull, that’s coincidence. Bump into him coming out of your wife’s bedroom, that’s correspondence.”
“Ellie said, ‘I thought the CAT spooks tended to keep you at arm’s length?’
“‘And now there’s one falling over himelf to be friendly. Yes, I noticed that too.’
“‘And do you believe him?’
“‘Which bit of him?'”
“In build she was Wagnerian rather than Mozartian, in this at least a fit consort for the Fat Man. In background (landed gentry), education (St. Dorothy’s Academy), and beliefs (animal rights, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth), she was a Scots mile away from him. In bed … the collective imagination of the Mid-Yorkshire constabulary had become considerably overheated fantasizing on their carnal relationship. ‘Whales do it,’ PC Maycock had said. ‘Yes, but they do it in water,’ PC Jennison had responded.”
“She listened to his theory with the kind of expression Galileo probably saw on the face of his Chief Inquisitor.”
“‘So he’s a clever arrogant murderous bastard,’ said Pascoe.
“‘You’ve taken against him, I see.'”
“He said, ‘This was meant to be a jolly sociable lunch. Sorry to off-load all this stuff onto you, especially when you’ve got troubles of your own.’
“‘Troubles?’ she echoed, unsure which of them he might be refering to.
“‘Peter’s boss, I get the impression he means a lot to you both …’
“‘Andy? Yes, he does. A lot.’
“‘So if he doesn’t make it, you’re going to be hit hard?’
“It occured to her that if this was idea of getting the lunch back on jolly sociable lines, he ought to go on a course.”
“It all fitted together nicely.
“‘Like Patrick Fitzwilliam and William Fitzpatrick, the Irish queers,’ he heard Dalziel say. ‘They fit together very nicely but they’re not going to give birth, are they?’
“In other words, don’t believe in coincidence, but don’t jump to conclusions either!”
“He had made things happen, and the things he had made happen had made other things happen, so that in the end it wasn’t a simple trail that he had followed, but a track, many of whose twists and turns he had actually created. In trying to trace a line back from an effect to a cause he had himself become a cause and did not know if the place he was at now was a place that would have existed if he hadn’t started on his quest, whether he was the Red Cross Knight riding to the rescue or merely a bumbling Quixote, creating confusion rather than resolving it.”
(btw, I’ve blogged about this before.)
(and btw, Dalziel is pronounced Dee-EL)