The man who inspired Heartbeat...
Nicholas Rhea (Peter N. Walker) 1936 - 2017
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Peter N Walker (Nicholas Rhea). He died peacefully on the evening of Friday April 21st, surrounded by his beloved wife Rhoda and their four children Janet, Andrew, Tricia and Sarah. Peter's cancer, originally diagnosed ten years before, sadly returned in the spring of 2017 with a vengeance. His decline was rapid but he was cared for in those last moments by those who mattered most to him and he spent his final days in his beloved home of fifty years in Ampleforth, a Yorkshireman to the end.
For fifty years, Nicholas Rhea had 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 information about the man, his books and, of course, Heartbeat, but also a country diary kept by Nicholas Rhea himself, in which he shared his observations about the county of Yorkshire, its countryside and traditions.
More about Nicholas Rhea, the man behind the books >>.
The Constable Files
The Constable books are probably Nicholas Rhea's best known work, since they form the rootstock from which Heartbeat, sprang. The enduring popularity of this much-loved TV series was demonstrated yet again by a recent poll in the Dalesman magazine. Readers were asked to vote for their favourite programme made or set in Yorkshire. More than 3,000 votes were cast. Rhoda Walker (Mrs Nicholas Rhea) reports on the result, published in the August 2018 issue: "Unsurprisingly, All Creatures Great and Small came first; Last of the Summer Wine second; and, much to our delight, Heartbeat came third.
The books, in which author Nicholas Rhea drew on his own experiences as a local bobby for a small Yorkshire village in the 1960s to chronicle the career of Constable Nick, from his first arrival in Aidensfield, through his years on his rural beat, to his retirement, have proved equally long-lived. The latest reappearance of these tales from Aidensfield comes under the banner 'The Constable Files': two inviting titles, comprising three volumes of Constable Nick's memoirs. How? The clue is in the title: Constable at the Double is an anthology title, containing both Constable around the Village and Constable across the Moors. It is available now from Ipso books in a choice of paperback and Kindle editions.
Also reissued in the 'Constable Files' ebook series, Constable around the Houses; and keep an eye out for new additions to the files - Constable along the Highway should come next!
Back on the Beat with Constable Nick
Meanwhile the Endeavour Press editions, from the UK's leading independent digital publisher, are still available. They cover the early stages of Constable Nick's career, in paperback and e-book editions. Watch the Constable books page for an overview of all the latest titles.
A Tradition of Diary-Keeping
As well as his intermittent diary on this website, Nicholas Rhea wrote a real-life Countryman's Diary every week in the Darlington & Stockton Times What's more, he wrote it regularly for forty years! In his 40th anniversary column, he modestly pointed out that his predecessor wrote the column for an even more remarkable sixty years - and that neither of them has ever missed a week, so between the two of them, they notched up an unbroken century of diary-keeping.
Now his daughter, Sarah Walker, is following in that family tradition. In her first column, published on 25th June, she says:
"I'd like to say an enormous thank you for all the warm comments and tributes that we received since Dad died on April 21. They really did help us get us through those very difficult first days and will continue to help us through more difficult days yet to come.
Read Sarah's 'Countryman's Daughter' column every week in the Darlington & Stockton Times.
More Digital Discoveries - now in paperback
Endeavour Press have also been hunting for treasure elsewhere on Nicholas Rhea's backlist, and finding more and more gems to offer to readers.
First they reissued two adventures of Detective Inspector Montague Pluke the CID's most superstitious police officer, then they asked Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton to help with their enquiries.
Both of these characters proved so popular that they added additional titles to the list. Whether you prefer the whimsical adventures of Montague Pluke (and a taste of Yorkshire folklore on the side) or the classic detective mysteries featuring Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton, told with Nicholas Rhea's trademark mixture of entertaining story-telling and police procedure based on personal experience, you no longer have to search for a highly collectable copy of that original hardback edition - now, thanks the Criminal Endeavours, it's easy to download an eBook edition!
The next step, of course, was to make those titles available in paperback - and then came an omnibus edition of three of Montague Pluke's 'deadly cases'!
Constable on Trial
Or go back to the start of Nick's career in Constable on Trial, now also available as an audiobook, read by Nick McArdle: Constable on Trial goes back to the beginning, to tell some untold stories about Constable Nick's earlier life, before he came to Aidensfield. This first volume of a projected new series takes us back in time as Detective Constable Rhea, stationed in the popular seaside resort of Strensford as a somewhat raw recruit, is given an attachment to CID. As Nicholas Rhea explains, there is an autobiographical element in this, too: "When patrolling in uniform, especially in the lonely night hours, young constables would dream of becoming a detective or having their own country beat. I was no exception and although the seaside town where I served my two years' probation provided much of interest, the CID promised extra excitement and intrigue.
Throughout his early days Nick, like many other detectives, nurses an ambition to arrest a murderer, but no opportunities come his way - until a killer on the run seeks refuge in Strensford and an elderly lady is found dead at home.
Blessed Nicholas Postgate - the Martyr of the Moors
Since the earliest days of his writing career, Peter Walker felt the desire to produce a book about Father Nicholas Postgate, the charismatic priest of the North York Moors: the choice of 'Nicholas' as a pen name was no coincidence. He was eventually 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 is 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 read some of Nicholas Rhea's researches on this website.
Nicholas Rhea is the author of many other books, among them the 'Assured' series, set in the Yorkshire Dales a generation before Heartbeat, books about Yorkshire folklore, standalone novels and thrillers.
If you don't find what you are looking for on this site, try these links to other sites »
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Site last updated 3rd August 2018.