Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

A Clubbable Woman – Reginald Hill

Crime Fiction
3*s

I debated with myself whether or not, this the first in the superb Dalziel and Pascoe series could or should be included as one of my Classic Club’s crime reads, at the end of the (very) long battle with myself I decided against, but having now read it I think it would have provided an excellent example of what was expected from crime fiction at the start of the 1970s but more of that later in the review.

This police procedural revolves around the local Rugby Club and in a brutal match poor old Sam Connon, ‘Connie’ to his team-mates, gets a boot to the head and retires off the pitch early. After not feeling too well, despite the medicinal alcohol, he gets into his home and drives home. His wife, Mary Connon apparently less than impressed with his late arrival for dinner doesn’t speak to him and Connie duly passes out on his bed. Later the police are called, Mary Connon has had her head bashed in.

Even in this early book the plotting is seamless if the set-up is somewhat less than inspired than in the author’s later books but for all that, he clearly knows the rules and has lined up a selection of suitable and distinct suspects for the pot. Unsurprisingly Dalziel is a member of said rugby club, which is what the plot revolves around. We have a variety of men who almost made it big, those who keep order, their time having passed, and of course those whose attendance is possibly fuelled as much by the attractive young women who provide the decoration as the game. Peter Pascoe is there by dint of his job, i.e. being Dalziel’s whipping boy, the object of his derision as he hasn’t yet been promoted to any sort of sounding board at all and so most of his action is via monologues which always veer back to the attractive ladies. Common with what makes his later books so individually memorable is that the book uses the English language so well, the author using the rugby theme to sprinkle its terms through the book and somehow giving the feeling of something more than any old crime fiction novel. Of course I appreciated the more literary leanings in Pictures of Perfection but fortunately, I live with a man who supports Wales in the rugby, and so many of the terms were at least familiar to me.

And here’s the thing, the book isn’t wonderful but it is better than a great many, but the focus of all the male attention seemingly various beddable women was a bit of a shock to the system! It is hard to read in this day and age and imagine that fiction was created out of fact. Did my parent’s generation really spend their entire lives only interested in certain parts of anatomy? Was it really necessary to have some character or another lusting in various crude ways over one woman or another quite so frequently? Apparently the answer is yes. Welcome to the seventies!

That said, because I am a huge fan of this series it is possible to see that where Dalziel is in this book merely brash and uncouth, he did grow into a man with far more facets to his character and fortunately Peter met Ellie who put a stop to all that desperate lusting over girls far too young for him. And best of all I now know the exact point where the two men first fight crime. The carefully negotiating of the alliances that are so important in the small town Yorkshire setting is where these polar opposites will learn to use their very distinct skills to solve a few more crimes in the future. It isn’t just Dalziel and Pascoe that held my interest though, for all the sexism, even at this stage Reginald Hill has a range of characters that are far from stereotypical for the age with some particularly delightful lines from the bit player Anthony who is Connie’s daughter’s boyfriend. He’s introduced via a particularly squirm inducing scene where despite the death of her mother Connie has a brief consideration is given to whether it is appropriate for the two to share a room, of course it isn’t!

I wouldn’t recommend that anyone starts with this book. My entry to the series was probably over two decades later and read in random order depending on what the library had to offer, and over the last few years I have had enormous pleasure in re-reading a few and really appreciating the depth that this author bought to the genre. A Clubbable Woman might not be up with the best but it most definitely wasn’t without its merits.

A Clubbable Woman is the eighth book I’ve read for my Mount TBR Challenge 2018 having been purchased in November 2017 so I gain another third of a book token!


 

First Published UK: 1970
Publisher: HarperCollins
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Dalziel & Pascoe Series

A Clubbable Woman (1970)
An Advancement of Learning (1971)
Ruling Passion (1973)
An April Shroud (1975)
A Pinch of Snuff (1978)
A Killing Kindness (1980)
Deadheads (1983)
Exit Lines (1984)
Child’s Play (1987)
Under World (1988)
Bones and Silence (1990)
One Small Step (1990, novella)
Recalled to Life (1992)
Pictures of Perfection (1994)
The Wood Beyond (1995)
On Beulah Height (1998)
Arms and the Women (1999)
Dialogues of the Dead (2002)
Death’s Jest-Book (2003)
Good Morning, Midnight (2004)
The Death of Dalziel (2007)
A Cure for All Diseases (2008)
Midnight Fugue (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Endings

The End

Imagine the scene, it won’t be hard, you’ve turned the last page of your book and you settle down to write your review.

How much do you say about the ending?

If you read my post from yesterday which was of the classic crime fiction The Murder of Roger Ackroyd you’ll note that this is less of a review and more of, well I’m not really sure – a collection of quotes and a brief synopsis. Why? Well the reason why this book is held up as potentially one of the best written by Agatha Christie is because of the ending, at the time the whole set up was a new idea, and although it may be not so unusual in modern crime fiction it was this device that made the book quite so exceptional. But I review books and obviously if I told you the ending it would spoil your enjoyment so I’m left waffling on sprinkling quotes on a page and not able to talk about the one thing that made the book so wonderful.

For those of us that read and review, this problem isn’t a new one, and often I’m fine with that but this is the one area where blogging just doesn’t create quite the same experience as discussing a book with others who have read it. After all a good ending is key to an enjoyable reading experience and the very bit I am not able to dissect in my writing whereas I could have written an entire post about what I thought of the ending!!

This is particularly true in crime fiction series. How do we know if they’ve ended? One of my favourites wrapped up the main story arc in the latest book – who knows if this is the final episode? Who can I ask? There have been no clues given so I suppose I’m just going to have to wait and see…

Of course the obvious way to finish a crime series is to kill off the lead detective as Colin Dexter did to Morse in A Remorseful Day and it is well-known that Agatha Christie tired of her little Belgium detective and killed him off! Reginald Hill indicated a similar intent in his last book featuring Daziel with Death of the Fat Man. All a bit final but how else do you stop the readers clamouring for more of their favourite detectives? And is it my imagination or are detectives getting younger these days? (Perhaps I’m just getting older?)  What is the modern crime-writer to do with their younger cast? Only this week I came across a blog post by Sharon Bolton entitled Please don’t ask me when Lacey is coming back. I simply don’t know, which summed up the issue from this author’s perspective and after all author’s these days can’t hide from their readers, we can stalk them on social media begging for another story featuring our favourite characters!

What do you think about endings? How do you tackle them in your reviews?