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The man who inspired Heartbeat...
For the last 30 years, Nicholas Rhea has been writing books, drawing on his experiences in the police force, his never-ending enthusiasm for Yorkshire and his continuing interest in crime fact and fiction. His best known work, the Constable stories, provided the inspiration for the hugely popular Heartbeat TV series, and he remained involved with the series as a consultant until filming ended in 2009.
This is Nicholas Rhea's official website, and on it you will find not only his news and information about the man, his books and, of course, Heartbeat, but also a country diary kept by Nicholas Rhea himself, in which he shares his observations about the county of Yorkshire, its countryside and traditions - and which is now being regularly updated! Click the link to read a new instalment of his explorations of Yorkshire - and beyond!
A Full Churchyard
There's an old saying that "A green winter makes a full churchyard". And A Full Churchyard is the subject of Nicholas Rhea's next book, featuring one of his most eccentric creations: Detective Inspector Montague Pluke, the CID's most superstitious police officer and a man with a deep knowledge of local lore, and a passion for horse-troughs! No, says the author, that's not a clue - it sounded like a good title, especially for Pluke.
He adds: "In preparing this novel, I was aware of a range of superstitions relating to death, some of which are practised even today, such as opening all doors and windows of the deceased's room upon death, or turning mirrors to face the wall or covering them with cloths. One very old practice, which was never regarded as murder, was to ease the death of a person if it seemed he or she was having a tough time or taking a long time to die - a 'hard' death in other words. These acts would be regarded as mercy killings today, and therefore unlawful, but in the fairly recent past, easing death was a common practice and regarded as helpful rather than a crime. One method to help a person die more easily was to halt their breathing with a soft pillow or to lay them on a cold floor so the shock would do the trick - which Pluke recognised as he investigated the deaths of those who had helped to create that full churchyard."
A Full Churchyard is published by NAG Press (a division of Robert Hale): order your copy now from Amazon (or ask your local bookshop to order a copy for you; the ISBN is 978-1-8452-9375-8). It is also available in a Kindle edition, and the Large Print version is on its way.
Heartbeat - a Yorkshire Icon
Although there have been no new episode of Heartbeat since September 2010, the show is still much loved, in the UK and around the world - and of course that includes Yorkshire! Nicholas Rhea was delighted to find Heartbeat included in a list of 75 Yorkshire icons compiled by the Dalesman magazine. It came in at no. 65, a few positions above rhubarb! Top of the poll was, of course, Yorkshire pudding.
Heartbeat continues to be repeated on television in many countries, and there are now sixteen series available on DVD, plus two of the related hospital drama, The Royal: see the Heartbeat page for details.
Caution: the disks are in Region 2 / PAL format; this means that it may not be compatible with DVD players outside Europe. We know that there are Heartbeat fans all over the world, and hope that this first release will be followed by other formats.
What Constable Nick did next
Nicholas Rhea made good his promise to complete his much loved Constable series with the tale of Nick's retirement, titled Constable over the Hill (see below). But Nick hasn't been taking it entirely easy since he retired: he has been helping the monks of Maddleskirk Abbey to create a small private police force of monk-constables serving the Abbey and its adjoining college - not so much Constable as monkstables.
Murder at Maddleskirk Abbey, Nicholas Rhea's latest book, relates how he got on - and if Nick was expecting retirement to be quiet, he has learned otherwise. The monkstables have to use their knowledge of the abbey, its history, practices and personnel to solve a case of murder - with the help of some old friends.
And there will be another story from Maddleskirk Abbey in spring 2015.
Never too late!
The early chapters of the Aidensfield story are becoming easier to find: although many of these are out of print, and much sought after by collectors, several of the early titles were reissued by Accent Press in a smart matching livery.
New technology has also come to the rescue, and you can download Kindle editions of several of the early (and hard-to-find!) episodes in the annals of Aidensfield, starting with the very first, Constable on the Hill. For an up-to-date list, search Amazon's Kindle store- and US readers will find that Amazon.com can help you, too. You'll need to keep looking to spot all the bargains!
Blessed Nicholas Postgate - the Martyr of the Moors
Since the earliest days of his writing career, Nicholas Rhea has felt the desire to produce a book about Father Nicholas Postgate, the charismatic priest of the North York Moors, but has only recently been able to research his life not only from previous publications and records but also from visits to his native moorland - along with some help from family and computer.
The result was a book rather different book to previous works by Nicholas Rhea - though it too concerns a man whose life's work was the well-being of the Yorkshire moors and those who lived there. Father Nicholas Postgate lived at a time when being a Catholic priest was punishable by a horrible death, yet he walked around his huge 'parish' of Blackamoor, always declining the offer of a horse. He shared his food and clothes and visited people in remote areas to offer both spiritual and practical help, wanting to understand the plight of the poor and to empathise with them in every way. His generosity to all, regardless of their status or religion, earned him the title 'The Good Samaritan of the Moors'.
In addition to the book itself, you can now read some of Nicholas Rhea researches in a new section of this website devoted to Blessed Nicholas Postgate.
Chronicles of Kelderdale
A new puzzle for those of you who have solved the riddle 'Where is Aidensfield?' (and for those who haven't, there's a clue in this interview): where is Kelderdale?
Nicholas Rhea's Chronicles of Kelderdale first appeared in the May 2012 issue of the Dalesman magazine. It is a monthly account of the goings on in this fictitious village somewhere in the North Yorkshire, and we hope it will win many friends for Kelderdale and those who live there!
Nicholas Rhea is also the author of many other books, among them the Pemberton series (described by one critic as "distinctive and deserves to be better known"). In Murder under the Midnight Sun, the most recent of these, DS Mark Pemberton embarks on a cruise to the Arctic Circle. He simply wants to enjoy his holiday, experience the spectacle of the Midnight Sun and admire the splendour of the glaciers and fjords. But then a man is found stabbed in a locked cabin and the captain turns to Pemberton - can he assist in investigating the death without alarming the other passengers? Murder under the Midnight Sun is now available in audio and Large Print editions.
Others include the 'Assured' series, set in the Yorkshire Dales a generation before Heartbeat, and the Montague Pluke books, about an eccentric detective with a passion for horse troughs. The latest Montague Pluke book is Prize Murder. Nicholas Rhea tells us: "Lots of us have received letters offering chances of winning wonderful competitions, but suppose first prize was your own murder! When Detective Inspector Montague Pluke receives such a letter, he needs all his luck if he is to survive." And Prize Murder is now available in audiobook and large print formats, too.
If you don't find what you are looking for on this site, try these links to other sites »
Nicholas Rhea is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk.
Site last updated 28th January 2015.