The man who inspired Heartbeat...
Nicholas Rhea (Peter N. Walker) 1936 - 2017
Peter N Walker (Nicholas Rhea) died peacefully on the evening of Friday April 21st 2017, 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 >>.
Back on the Beat with Constable Nick
The Constable books are probably Nicholas Rhea's best known work, and his family are delighted to announce that Joffe Books have now acquired world English digital and POD rights to the complete series, and are making the books easily available once again. 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 in Constable on the Hill (first published in 1979) to his retirement in Constable over the Hill (2011).
Many other Constable books filled in the narrative between those two events, and Joffe Books have commissioned delightful new covers for the entire series, with artwork by acclaimed North Yorkshire artist Colin Williamson.
Constable between the covers
A recent reappearance in book form of these tales from Aidensfield comes under the banner 'The Constable Files': three inviting titles, comprising four 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. Also reissued in the 'Constable Files' series are Constable on the Prowl and Constable around the Houses; keep an eye on the 'Constable Books' page, where there's a checklist of all the titles.
Agora Books continue the process of bringing Nicholas Rhea's books back to the marketplace, with a case for Detective Inspector Montague Pluke, Yorkshire's most superstitious detective. In Omens of Death, the naked body of a young woman found in a Druids' Circle confirms Pluke's premonitions - and more deaths follow ... The Yorkshire Post praised this debut of a new series: "Detectives, in fiction at least, come in all shapes and sizes, but few make as much impact as Montague Pluke...The strength of the book lies in the characters, especially the eccentric Pluke and his wife, Millicent. But a rich seam of secondary characters wait in the wings. All hold out the promise of a wealth of humour and interest that can be tapped in the future."
Now Omens of Death is available once more in paperback and Kindle editions; read more about this and all of Nicholas Rhea's Montague Pluke books.
Or perhaps you are looking for a more conventional detective? Then meet Detective Superintendent Mark Pemberton! The Pemberton books are classic detective mysteries, and are Nicholas Rhea's major contribution to the crime genre. Rhea uses a mixture of entertaining story-telling and police procedure based on personal experience.
In Family Ties, Pemberton finds himself playing detective in the family tree of the Vice President of the USA - and what he finds is a strange death in the family dating back to 1916. Private James Hartley was found dead with a bullet in his brain but nothing more is known. Was it murder or suicide?
Agora Books have so far reissued three of DS Pemberton's investigations: Family Ties, Suspect and Confession; or there's a bumper two-book Kindle edition which combines Family Ties and Suspect.
Read more about this and all of Nicholas Rhea's Pemberton books.
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 2017, 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.
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 27th March 2020.