#BookReview — Constable on the Hill by Nicholas Rhea
Constable on the Hill
By Nicholas Rhea
It's not the big city but the Yorkshire countryside is still full of incident.
In the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside of the 1960s, Constable Nick's roles are as varied as the eccentric villagers.
He handles every encounter with his characteristic humour, humanity and professionalism.
His investigations include the case of a clever pony who keeps escaping, a woman running through town naked, and a pack of Canadian timber wolves hanging out in a bus shelter…
"Arrest?' he sounded horrified. "We don't arrest people here!"
If they did then where would Senior Constable Alwyn Foxton put his prized Chrysanthemums? After all, the solitary woman's cell was perfect for these delicate flowers.
When Constable Nick Rhea found himself posted to Aidensfield he had felt some trepidation, as anyone would when starting a new job. But what he had not been prepared for was the realities of walking the beat in this small community. To his delight and, more often than not, bemusement, he encountered some of the most eccentric people that he would ever meet and they would challenge him in ways that he could never imagine.
From dealings with the local hunt who insisted on riding through his garden to an escaped donkey and a dog who was fast becoming a public nuisance, not to mention the pack of Canadian timber wolves who had escaped from the local zoo, Constable on the Hill by the late Nicholas Rhea is a book that is as engaging as it is enthralling.
Constable on the Hill is the first book in Rhea's fabulous series, and it starts where all good books do — at the beginning. With an elegant turn of phrase and a visceral understanding of what makes a reader laugh, Rhea began his tale of life as a bobby on the day he moved to Aidensfield. Immediately Rhea set the tone for his book — the comical adventures of the removal-van men whose answer for everything was that the "insurance will see you all right," to the rather somewhat unconventional police station where flowers grew in one cell, and roadkill was stored in another! This book is so vastly entertaining because of its honesty, its integrity and of course, its marvellous depiction of the larger-than-life characters who grace the pages.
With a compelling narrative and lavish attention to the historical detail, Rhea clearly demonstrated why his books were, and still are, so incredibly popular. Written in the same style as the fabulous James Herriot series which I loved so much as a teenager, Constable on the Hill has an awful lot to recommend it. This book is filled to bursting with anecdotal stories — which were not only incredibly entertaining but laugh-out-loud funny. This is a novel that not only entertains but allows us a glimpse into the not so distant past. In these pages, the reader is introduced to eccentric and fascinating characters such as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass — who, of course, was immortalised forever by the late Bill Maynard's superb portrayal in Heartbeat.
I absolutely adored this book. I loved the easy prose style in which it is written, as well as the wonderful stories about the inhabitants of Aidensfield. I also enjoyed reading about how different policing was in the 1960s as opposed to now. I thought Rhea captured the very essence of this era and as this book is written in an informal manner, it seemed, at times, that I was listening to Rhea's account rather than reading about it.
The Constable on the Hill is the book that inspired Heartbeat — which was to become essential Sunday night viewing on ITV and at its peak audience, drew in a staggering 13.82 million viewers. After reading Constable on the Hill, I can appreciate why it was made into a television series that lasted for two decades. Rhea had penned a fresh, vibrant account of what life was like during this time. An account which has stood the test of time and I am sure will continue to do so. I loved every single minute of it.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Constable on the Hill
(Peter N. Walker) 1936 – 2017
Nicholas Rhea is the pseudonym for author Peter N Walker. He was born in Glaisdale, a Yorkshire Moors Village, in 1936. The oldest of three sons born to an insurance agent and a teacher, he won a scholarship to Whitby Grammar School but left at 16 to become a police cadet. In 1956, he joined the North Yorkshire force in Whitby. He began to write seriously in the late 1950s after years of casual interest, having his first short story published in the Police Review. Continuing to rise through the ranks at the region’s Police Headquarters in Northallerton, he published his first novel, Carnaby and the Hijackers, in 1976. Rhea is primarily known for his Constable series, inspired by his many years of police service. He retired in 1982 to concentrate on his writing, encouraged by an interest in his Constable books from Yorkshire Television. This was to become the highly popular Heartbeat series, which ran for 18 seasons and over 350 episodes. Rhea had four children and eight grandchildren and lived with his wife in a quiet North Yorkshire village. He died in 2017.