Dick Hill was many things – a great stage actor, a powerful singer and, I’m told, a splendid painter. He also did the New York Times crossword puzzle each day, in ink.
But Hill — who died Oct. 4 at 75 — may be best-known for something else — as a great narrator.
That’s his voice – a rich baritone – transforming into Jack Reacher and Harry Bosch and Kurt Wallander and more. He narrated audio books by Dave Barry, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Dean Koontz, Ed McBain, Pat Conroy, Nora Roberts, Anne McCaffrey (shown here), Arthur C. Clarke, Clive Barker and more, including memoirs and such by Bobby Knight, Bill Walsh and Tim Conway.
He also did Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Pynchon (all 53 hours of “Against the Day”) and Nathaniel Hawthorne, plus Plato, Kafka, and Dostoevsky. In all, he did more than 1,000 books, winning three Audie awards, a Golden Voice and more. And this was just an accidental sideline.
Most of all, Hill was a theater guy. In the thriving stage scene in Lansing, Mich., he made a big impression in “Camelot,” almost a half-century ago. He later married his co-star, Susie Breck.
Hill continued to do theater – musicals and dramas, amateur and professional. In the early years of the Thespies, the Lansing State Journal’s theater awards, he was a frequent winner.
But the change came partly through geography: In Grand Haven, Mich., Brilliance Audio was a pioneering book-tape companies. It began in 1985 by recording public-domain books, then expanded into originals. Often, its narrators were people who did theater in Michigan.
Hill commuted to Grand Haven and eventually built his own studio at home. Breck was sometimes his producer or co-narrator, but also worked separately on other books.
(For the McCaffrey book shown here, they were co-narrators. In most books, however, Hill did all the voices; instead of trying falsettos for the females, he used his acting skills to suspend our disbelief.)
His work has drawn waves of praise, as shown on his website. Eileen Hutton of Brilliance called him “fast, flawless and professional”; Kevin Colebank of Tantor Media said he’s “developed a reputation as something of a miracle worker.’
Added J.A. Konrath, an author: “He makes my characters come alive in ways I never thought possible.”
Hill – who maintined a Midwest-guy-next-door persona — narrated books for about 30 years, before retiring in 2018. From then on, he told one interviewer, his focus was on painting. “I fall asleep thinking about it.”
He filled his home with paintings, after filling his mind with literature. Hill may have read enough words to become a masterful crook or cop. He also was the narrator for a psychiatrist’s best-selling book about the afterlife, “Life After Life.”