For someone who has slaughtered dozens of innocent people, Colin Dexter seems a remarkably agreeable man.
The author who created curmudgeonly, real-ale quaffing detective, Inspector Morse, managed to kill nearly 80 people in his 14 novels and its mega-successful spin-off Tv series. Along the way he turned Oxford into the UK’s fictional murder capital.
Yet, as he regaled the audience at the Regent Centre on Friday with behind the scenes tales of writing the books and working on the TV show, he appeared the picture of genteel innocence. In fact exactly like the one time classics teacher that he is.
Dexter, now 79-years-old, signed books, talked with fans and spoke of his admiration for the late John Thaw, the actor who brought his cantankerous hero to life on screen.
With a twinkle in his eye, he revealed how the series found him working with everyone from Sir John Gielgud to Anthony Minghella.
He expressed delight at the continued success of Morse co-star Kevin Whately in ITV’s Lewis and explained why, if you want good restaurant service, it pays to dress up as a Bishop. The evening closed with a lively question and answers session.
Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter has hit out at Sheila Hancock’s descriptions of her late husband John Thaw’s booze addiction.
In her warts and all book about their stormy 28 year marriage The Two of Us: My Life With John Thaw, Hancock claimed that the popular actor spent years battling with alcoholism.
But the 79-year-old crime writer says Thaw, who brought his curmudgeonly detective to life on screen, was never drunk in his presence.
Talking about the actor who he first met in 1987 during the filming of the first Morse series, Dexter told an audience in Christchurch, Dorset, last night (Friday Sep 4).
“You don’t want to believe everything you read in that book that his wife wrote… You’d think he spent half his time popping in and out of Alcoholic Anonymous drying-out clinics.”
Despite claims that Thaw – who also starred in hit TV shows like The Sweeney and Kavanagh QC – didn’t finally become sober until the mid 1990s, Dexter says he saw no evidence of alcoholism in the years that he knew and worked with him.
The classics teacher turned writer who became good friends with the actor and remained close to him until his death at the age of 60 from cancer of the oesophagus in 2002, added that while Morse definitely liked a drink, Thaw was always sober.
He added that, unlike the fictional real-ale loving policeman, Thaw didn’t even like beer. “When I was with him he was always a million miles from even being merry let alone drunk.”
The veteran author killed Inspector Morse off in 1999 but continues to work as a script consultant on the ITV spin-off series Lewis which stars Kevin Whately.
Although he is now a non-smoking tee-totaller himself, diabetes suffering Dexter admits that his hard-drinking cigarette-puffing, opera-loving detective was to an extent based on himself.
He told his audience that if he were given prior warning that his life would end next week: “I would buy 500 cigarettes and couple of crates of single malt and really go out with a bang.”