FOR anyone who remembers the hugely popular 1960s Cluff television series - which followed the trials and tribulations of gruff ‘Maigret of the Dales’ Sergeant Caleb Cluff, there’s a chance to rediscover the books on which the series was based. But, for the un-initiated, be warned, they are not for the faint hearted.

The Sgt Cluff books were written by Skipton born Geoffrey Horne, who wrote under the pen name of Gil North.

The son of the town clerk, he went to Ermysted’s Grammar school, before going on to Christ’s College, Cambridge. He joined the civil service, and was stationed in Nigeria and Cameroon, before finally returning to Skipton to write. He died in 1988.

The books are set in fictional Gunnarshaw, actually Skipton, where filming also took place for the BBC television series.

When Horne was first approached by the BBC with a view to adapting Cluff, he was less than enthusiastic and declined to attend a meeting in London, a place he hated. Instead, the BBC executives came to him. He personally wrote every episode and all the scripts in two television series.

They starred Bradford born Leslie Sands as Sgt Cluff, and included an appearance by Leonard Rossiter, star of Rising Damp and The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. Despite regularly attracting 12m viewers, there was only the wo series, ending in 1965.

Although the first series has been lost to posterity, the second series survives in the BBC archives, though it has never been commercially available on DVD.

Back in 2016, a review of North’s work was staged at Skipton Library, with copies of the books donated by the British Library, to coincide with the centenary of the author’s birth. It was presented by writer Julia Chapman author of The Dales Detective series of books, based in Bruncliffe - Settle - where Julia lives.

Award winning crime writer, Martin Edwards is a great advocate of Cluff and has argued strongly why people need to rediscover and reconnect with such hidden gems.

He has said: “Cluff is a distinctive and impressive character, and the crisp, concisely written stories about him retain their power to this day... (the author’s) focus is not on mystification for the sake of game-playing, but on the human condition. His work shows the influence of Georges Simenon, and his most famous character, Inspector Jules Maigret.”

Now, four of the books have been re-published by Bradford based Great Northern Books, and they could well grip a whole new generation.

The books paint a very vivid and recognisable portrait of Skipton - although mercifully today, the slums, the stinking canal, yet to be cleaned up, with its rubbish sacks of stinking dead pets, and its poverty stricken inhabitants are no longer with us.

North’s Skipton is definitely not one likely to be promoted by the town’s tourist office.

Sgt Cluff, in his Burberry mac, hat and stick with his faithful border collie, Clive, his constant companion, stands guard over his town at the top of the High Street.

He stands as steadfast as the statue outside the library - it can only be the statue of Sir Mathew Wilson.

He knows everyone, from the market traders on the High Street to the inhabitants of the more valuable houses away from the centre of town, the mill workers and the inhabitants of the back to back terrace houses, where families struggle to survive.

An alarming number of nasty murders come his way. There’s the killing of the owner of the local estate, and the rector who is found in his bath with his wrists cut.

In another, one young woman after another is found dead. One is dismembered, and her limbs scattered in an attempt to cover up the crime. An incensed Cluff goes after the killer, the local dentist who has a side-line in illegal abortions. Determined to track him down, he chases him across the moors and follows him down a pothole into a cavern. There is no escape from determined Cluff.

In another, he travels out of Gunnarshaw to Liverpool to interview the inhabitants of the seedier parts of the city, including a prostitute, in his intent to get to the bottom of yet another scandal to hit his beloved town and its inhabitants who he seems to consider his children.

The books are extraordinary. Most definitely from a different time and not for everyone. But the descriptions of the town, its ginnels, back streets and canal are fascinating.

Its difficult to think of the canal, now such an accessible place for walkers on the towpath and all sorts of craft on the waterway itself, as Gill describes it. A filthy, stinking place with only the occasional cabin cruiser trying to make its way through the weeds.

Great Northern Books has re-printed Sergeant Cluff Goes Fishing, More Deaths for Sergeant Cluff, The Blindness of Sergeant Cluff, and Sergeant Cluff Laughs Last. They are priced £7.99 and are available from