Heartbeat Books - The Constable Series
The Constable books are probably Nicholas Rhea's best known work, since they form the rootstock from which the much-loved TV series, Heartbeat, sprang. 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. One of their many admirers was the Head of Drama at Yorkshire Television, and this led to the sale of the television rights to what eventually became Heartbeat. The early series not only used the location and many of the major characters of Nicholas Rhea's books, they also drew on his storylines. Nicholas Rhea played an active part in the storyline process throughout the show's lifetime, and his advice on police procedure and Yorkshire life in the sixties was always highly appreciated by the programme makers.
The growth of electronic publishing means that many of those early, hard-to-find stories are now easily available once more, and new editions are appearing all the time, so use the list below to discover every stage of Constable Nick's career - and even that isn't the end of the story...
When Heartbeat came to an end, Nicholas Rhea decided that it was time for Constable Nick to take his well earned retirement. But neither he nor his readers were ready to say goodbye, and retirement has brought Nick new challenges, helping to create a small private police force of monk-constables serving Maddleskirk Abbey and its adjoining college.
Constable on Trial
There are more stories to be told, as well, about Nick's earlier life. Constable on Trial 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.
Detective Constable Nick is kept busy as he endeavours to trace a stolen garden spade, a sleeping baby in a car driven away by a thief and someone who stole a make-shift hearse with a corpse on board. And who was the phantom knicker-pincher of Harbour Rise? He even finds himself in Aidensfield trying to outwit the roguish Claude Jeremiah Greengrass, and solving the case of the scary noises coming from a holiday cottage.
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.
Order Constable on Trial via Amazon UK or from any bookshop (it may help to tell them the ISBN: 978-0-7198-1814-1).
Constable on Trial is now available as an audiobook, read by Nick McArdle: download it now from Amazon or order direct from Soundings in a choice of formats.
The Constable books in order
Click the title for additional information about the books, where available - and look out, too, for the Heartbeat editions, sometimes of a single novel, sometimes an omnibus edition of several titles (check the full publications listing for details):
What the critics said:
"Stories of a constable on his village beat in North Yorkshire. All very gentle and far, far removed from the hurly burly of modern day city policing."
"Rhea's real strengths are his sharp portraits of people. The best humour comes from the author's close understanding and affectionate portrayals of the character of Yorkshire country folk."
What the critics said:
"These books... do for the police service in North Yorkshire what James Herriot did for the vets there... very relaxing, very readable"
"Recommended if it's laughter you're after"
Constable over the Hill
Constable Nick has earned his retirement, for, as you can see, the list of his adventures is long. In a January 2008 interview, Peter Walker (Nicholas Rhea) joked that the last volume of the series would have in its title a nod to the first: from Constable on the Hill to Constable over the Hill. Now at last the wheel has come full circle.
During his final days at Aidensfield, Nick has much to consider, both private and professional. In addition to his personal concerns there are duties to complete as he struggles to balance his family's needs against the demands of the police service. However, crimes and general police duties cannot be ignored whilst the resident constable is preparing to depart. Nick is challenged to solve a centuries-old Aidensfield murder mystery but is also expected to trace a coal thief before he burns the evidence. And what is Claude Jeremiah Greengrass up to? He is secretly spending a lot of time in woodland without his beloved dog, Alfred. Intense pressure comes to Nick and his family because they must find a suitable house before he assumes his new responsibilities. Will the family purchase the police house? And is it true that Claude Jeremiah Greengrass is making a serious bid to buy it? As he struggles to finalise his ambitious plans, some surprising offers are made to Constable Nick as he prepares for the next stage of his career.
Constable over the Hill was first published in May 2011.