Morse author Colin Dexter dies

Morse author Colin Dexter dies

Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse novels, has died aged 86.

His publisher Pan Macmillan said he died peacefully at his home in Oxford this morning (21st March).

Dexter was the author of 13 novels, the first Inspector Morse novel published in 1975 with Last Bus to Woodstock.

After selling in their millions, they went on to be adapted into a television detective series starring the late John Thaw.

Maria Rejt, Dexter’s most recent editor at Macmillan, said: “Colin was an author who inspired all those who worked with him.  His loyalty, modesty and self-deprecating humour gave joy to many. His was the sharpest mind and the biggest heart, and his wonderful novels and stories will remain a testament to both.”  

Jeremy Trevathan, Macmillan's publisher, added that Dexter’s death had meant a “tectonic shift in the international crime writing scene”.

“Colin represented the absolute epitome of British crime writing, and in the 1990s John Thaw's Inspector Morse took over Wednesday night television,” he said. “He was one of those television characters who the nation took to their hearts. This is a very sad day for us all.”

Born in 1930, in Stamford, Lincolnshire, Dexter studied Classics at Cambridge University and spent 13 years teaching Latin and Greek before becoming a full time writer in Oxford, where the Inspector Morse books were set.

Carlton Productions made 33 TV Morse films with Thaw in the lead role alongside Kevin Whately as his assistant Sergeant Lewis. Dexter himself appeared in cameo roles.

In later life, Dexter had type 2 diabetes, a condition that he also gave Morse in the last few books of the series. Morse was killed off in Dexter’s final book The Remorseful Day, which published in 1999.

Dexter was awarded an OBE for services to literature in 2000 and was given the Freedom of the City in Oxford in 2001. He also won the CWA Diamond Dagger award and the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction.

Waterstones fiction buyer Chris White said Dexter’s books established a legacy of “page turning erudition” which will ensure his books are bought and read “long into the future”.

“I’m extremely sorry to hear of the death of Colin Dexter. He was the first crime writer I really discovered, having been led to his books through an obsession with the Morse television series,” White told The Bookseller. “The intelligence, wit and melancholy which were the hallmarks of his writing established a legacy of page turning erudition which will ensure his books are bought and read long into the future.”