In its obituary of Dexter, The Guardian writes:
Though he thought of himself primarily as a school teacher, Colin Dexter will be remembered as the crime writer who created the curmudgeonly but entertaining Inspector Morse. Morse, the beer, crossword and Wagner-loving detective who drives a vintage Jaguar around Oxford, solves murders by deep thinking, often about chance remarks made by his sidekick, Sergeant [Robbie] Lewis.The Guardian adds this touching note:
Dexter … claimed that he was no writer, but could revise his “bad starts” into something that worked. The formula was certainly a success for some dozen Morse novels and many original scripts for television, the medium that delivered the doings of the idiosyncratic Morse to an audience across 50 countries. “I just started writing and forced myself to keep going,” he said. “And it’s been the same ever since.” …
Dexter happily went along with publicity strategies to boost Morse because he felt he owed a debt of gratitude to his publishers but, like Morse, he hated cant and pretentiousness. He made millions out of Morse but lived in the same four-bedroomed house in Oxford that he had occupied since moving to the city in 1966.
He was neither impressed by displays of wealth nor anxious to live up to his income, his main sybaritic expenditure being on red wine, Flowers beer, whisky and his car. The last of these was as elderly as Morse’s, but of a lesser make. The one extravagance to which Dexter would admit was his purchase of the first editions of the works of [English scholar-poet] A.E. Housman. He had planned to write a book on Housman when he finished with his detective, but found by that time that other writers had cornered the market.
Dexter was often asked whether he wrote for a readership or for himself. His answer was that he wrote for his old English teacher Mr. Sharp. He would write a page and then ask himself, “Would Mr. Sharp like that?” His aim was to feel that Mr. Sharp would give it at least eight out of 10.Among the encomia delivered today in memory of Dexter are these remarks from UK crime-fiction critic Barry Forshaw:
“Dexter’s Oxford copper is one of the defining figures in British detective fiction—a multifaceted, fascinating protagonist who readers have followed avidly through a series of beautifully turned and ingenious novels. In a line of descent that extends back to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (notably via the laser-sharp intellect), Inspector Morse is a character who can stand shoulder to shoulder with the very best in the genre. Interestingly, his creator shared several characteristics and traits with his hero; he was classically erudite (with a particular love of the poetry of Housman, as mentioned above), and shrewdly analytical in terms of the varied personalities he encountered. But Dexter was the polar opposite of Morse in terms of his character: extremely affable, immensely charming and humorous—and (most of all) sensitive to the feelings of those around him. An anti-Morse, in fact.”And this piece in The Bookseller adds more to Dexter’s story:
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.All of us here at The Rap Sheet offer our sympathies to Colin Dexter’s family and friends in the wake of his passing.
Dexter was awarded an OBE [Order of the British Empire] for services to literature in 2000 and was given the Freedom of the City in Oxford in 2001. He also won the CWA [Crime Writers’ Association’s] Diamond Dagger award and the Theakstons Old Peculier Outstanding Contribution to Crime Fiction. ...
“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,” [Waterstones fiction buyer Chris] 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.”
READ MORE: “Inspector Morse Creator Colin Dexter Dead at 86,” by Sian Cain (The Guardian); “Colin Dexter, Creator of Inspector Morse, Who Sleuthed in Novels and on TV, Dies at 86,” by William Grimes (The New York Times); “‘In Short, He’s a Really Good Bloke,’” by J. Kingston Pierce (The Rap Sheet).