Colin Dexter, Inspector Morse author, dies aged 86

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Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter has died aged 86.

A statement from his publisher, Macmillan, said: “With immense sadness, Macmillan announces the death of Colin Dexter, who died peacefully at home in Oxford this morning.”

Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse series, died at his home in Oxford. Picture: PA

Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse series, died at his home in Oxford. Picture: PA

He was best known for penning the crime novels, which spawned the long-running TV series Inspector Morse and spin-offs Endeavour and Lewis.

Dexter’s cerebral detective was first introduced in 1975 in his novel Last Bus To Woodstock and appeared in more than 10 other novels, as well as several short stories.

The author was known for making cameo appearances in the ITV drama series of Morse, which starred John Thaw in the title role across its 33-episode run between 1987 and 2000.

Dexter was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature in 2000.

At the time, he said he would have liked to think his fictional detective would have bought him a celebratory whisky if he had been alive.

He said: “I think Morse, if he had really existed and was still alive, would probably say to me ‘Well, you didn’t do me too bad a service in your writing’.

“He might say ‘I wish you’d made me a slightly less miserable blighter and slightly more generous, and you could have painted me in a little bit of a better light’.

“If he had bought me a drink, a large Glenfiddich or something, that would have been very nice, but knowing him I doubt he would have done - Lewis always bought all the drinks.”

As well as making appearances in Morse, Dexter would also regularly pop up in episodes of Endeavour, which stars Shaun Evans as a young Morse in the early days of his career as a detective constable in Oxford.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Dexter would not be making any further appearances in the current ITV drama series.

Endeavour’s creator and writer, Russell Lewis, said: “I think he’s allowed, after 30-odd years, to take tea in the pavilion.

“We haven’t got him in the flesh this year.”

Speaking to Radio Times, he added: “But there’s a big part of the fandom that likes to spot Colin - like spotting Hitchcock.

“He’ll be there in spirit, not in flesh. He’ll be that little bit harder to find than usual.”

Tributes have been paid by those who knew and worked with Dexter in recent years.

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, also from Macmillan, said: “With Colin’s death there has been 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 was one of those television characters who the nation took to their hearts. This is a very sad day for us all.”

Kevin Lygo, director of television at ITV, said: “We’re very sad to hear this news and our deepest sympathies go to Colin Dexter’s family.

“When Colin’s celebrated novels were adapted for television they went on to become one of the nation’s best-loved shows. John Thaw’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the irascible detective with a love for crosswords, real ale and classical music was undoubtedly one of the best-loved characters of all time.

“Through 33 feature-length stories, the casebook of Morse and Lewis changed the landscape of detective drama.”

Lygo praised Dexter for his hands-on approach to both Morse and Endeavour, as well as Lewis, the spin-off based on the story of Inspector Morse’s sergeant in the original series.

He said: “Colin was closely involved in the production of Inspector Morse, advising on scripts and making keenly anticipated cameo appearances in many of the films.

“Colin also worked closely with ITV as a consultant on Lewis, the highly successful sequel to Inspector Morse which starred Kevin Whately and ran for nine years.

“He was also one of the key creative forces behind Endeavour, the acclaimed prequel series starring Shaun Evans as the young Morse. The most recent Endeavour series, shown this January, marked the 25th anniversary of Inspector Morse’s television debut.”

He concluded: “ITV is very grateful to Colin for bringing so much joy to the audience over the years and the world of Inspector E Morse will live forever.”