Meeting Morse's maker

Crime writer and author of the Inspector Morse books Colin Dexter                                          Picture by Hattie Miles

I spent a brilliant hour or two talking to crime writer Colin Dexter about his curmudgeonly, real-ale guzzling, vintage-car driving, crossword-solving, Wagner-loving detective, Inspector Morse, and other related matters.

Dexter, a former classics teacher and one-time head of the Oxford University School examining board admits that Morse is based largely on himself. "I have very little visual imagination so I have to write about what I know."  He named him after his good friend and "the cleverest man I've ever known"  Sir Jeremy Morse, formidable crossword setter, chess genius and all round brilliant bloke.

Unfortunately at the age of 82, many years of ill health have forced Dexter to give up most of his Morse-like pleasures including crosswords. Diabetes has cost him much of his eyesight and advancing deafness means that he can no longer even follow the dialogue in his own Tv programmes. Doctors made him to give up drink and cigarettes years ago. 

He's not too happy about it. "I miss it dreadfully," he told me. In fact he revealed that should he learn that he only had a couple of weeks to live he'd "send out for two crates of single malt and a couple of thousand cigarettes."  

In case you're wondering Hattie's  picture above finds Colin photographed not with a sly drink taken against doctor's orders but with a "prop". The photograph was taken in a posh hotel which didn't stock anything that could be mistaken for a decent bitter. The barmaid however knew exactly how to create a replica pint.  Out came a pint glass and in went lager, sherry, dark rum and a hefty splash of Tia-maria. It certainly looked the business. Now that's what I call service, particularly as it went straight down the sink afterwards...and they didn't even charge. 

© Jeremy Miles 2021