During the long spring lockdown, I read the 46 Inspector George Gently novels by Alan Hunter. During the shorter November lockdown, I turned my attention to the thirteen Detective Inspector Charlie Priest books of Stuart Pawson.
The Charlie Priest series of crime books are largely unknown, which is a great shame because they are without exception excellent police procedurals, written with good humour, engaging characters, intelligent plots, and an interesting, lovingly-described location.
Charlie Priest is a likeable lead, thankfully free of too many quirks and neuroses, liked by his team, and respected by his colleagues. Like George Gently, he is someone that you feel that you would like to know in real life.
His ‘patch’ is the fictional town of Heckley, set amidst the wild and picturesque Yorkshire countryside of dales and moors, and Charlie takes to these same hills in his infrequent moments of leisure as an escape from the gruelling demands of his police work and to forget the mixed fortunes of his love life.
Charlie’s cases have ranged from nabbing a serial killer of clergymen––The Mushroom Man––to investigating a fire at a horse-racing stables––A Very Private Murder––from uncovering dodgy dealings in the world of art––The Picasso Scam––to facing death from someone bent on revenge from his past––Shooting Elvis.
Stuart Pawson’s relative obscurity is something of a mystery. His books have not been adapted for either film or TV, which is a shame, because ‘Pawson’s Yorkshire’ is an evocative backdrop for any cinematographer. I think he has suffered because, in reviews, he has constantly been compared to someone else. Lazy reviewers have endlessly described him as ‘Yorkshire’s Morse’ or compared his procedural style to that of R. D. Wingfield’s Jack Frost novels.
I think that the Detective Inspector Charlie Priest novels of Stuart Pawson deserve to be recognised in their own right, and a transfer to the TV screen is long overdue.
Chronological list of Charlie Priest books
The Picasso Scam
The Mushroom Man
The Judas Sheep
Some by Fire
Over the Edge
A Very Private Murder
© Fergus Longfellow
Fergus Longfellow ponders his next lockdown read.