I was saddened this afternoon to hear of the death, at the age of 86, of Colin Dexter, the novelist who created the character of Inspector Morse, memorably played on the long-running TV series of the same name by John Thaw.
The television series of Inspector Morse came to an end in 2000, with a poignant episode called The Remorseful Day, but has led to two successful spin-offs, in Lewis and Endeavour both of which are still running. Colin Dexter regularly appeared in in both Inspector Morse and Lewis, mainly in non-speaking roles and part of the fun of these programmes was trying to spot him in the background.
As a crime writer, Colin Dexter was definitely in the `English’ tradition of Agatha Christie, in that his detective stories relied more on cleverly convoluted plots than depth of characterization, but the central character of Morse was a brilliant creation in itself and is rightly celebrated. Crime fiction is too often undervalued in literary circles, but I find it a fascinating genre and Colin Dexter was a fine exponent.
Colin Dexter was also an avid solver of crossword puzzles, a characteristic shared by his Detective Inspector Morse. In fact I met Colin Dexter once, back in 2010, at a lunch to celebrate the 2000th Azed puzzle in the Observer which I blogged about here. Colin Dexter used to be a regular entrant – and often a winner – in Azed‘s monthly clue-setting competition, but I haven’t seen his name among the winners for a while. You can see his outstanding record on the “&lit” archive here. I guess he retired from crosswords just has he had done from writing crime novels. To be honest, he seemed quite frail back in 2010 so I’m not surprised he decided to take it easy in his later years.
Incidentally, Colin Dexter took the name `Morse’ from his friend Jeremy Morse, another keen cruciverbalist. Sadly he passed away last year, at the age of 87. Jeremy Morse was another frequent winner of the Azed competition and he produced some really cracking clues – you can find them all on the “&lit” archive too.
Here’s a little cryptic tribute:
Morse inventor developed Nordic Telex (5,6)
Now I think I’ll head home to cook my traditional mid-week vegetable curry, have a glass of wine, and see if I can watch a DVD last episode of Inspector Morse without crying…
R.I.P. Norman Colin Dexter (1930-2017)Follow @telescoper