The death of Terry Venables, the former England football player and manager, has prompted many reminiscences about this talented and popular man. Naturally these have focused on his achievements in the football world, but he was a multi-faceted character, sometimes controversial (especially in his business activities) but always, it seemed to me, interesting and charismatic. Among many other things, he found time to create the very enjoyable James Hazell mysteries.
The Hazell books were written in collaboration with Gordon Williams, a writer of genuine accomplishment, who died in 2017. The pair had previously written a football novel called They Used to Play on Grass (about plastic pitches, now so commonplace!) under their own joint names.
Williams had used the pen-name P.B. Yuill for his strange stand-alone novel The Bornless Keeper and for some reason the pair decided to use the same name for the three Hazell mysteries that they wrote together. The books are short, snappy reads, very much of their time. I'm glad to have a couple of them signed by both Williams and Venables.
Over the years, there haven't been many really good British private eye characters. I think Hazell was one of the most appealing. The late Bob Adey, no mean judge, ranked the books as in the same league as those by Robert B. Parker - quite an accolade. It's no great surprise that the character was taken up for television; here are my thoughts after watching the shows again on Talking Pictures TV.