Monday, 27 March 2017

Resting From His Endeavour...

.-.  ..  .--.
Many of you will recognise that line of dots and dashes - it is RIP written in Morse Code. 

Last week, the great Colin Dexter, writer, cruciverbalist, Archers Addict and lover of fine ales, died at the age of 86. 
I started reading the Morse stories as a student in Oxford, and loved them - and then really enjoyed the subsequent TV adaptations. I was not alone in this - Dexter deftly combined the intellectual rigour of the Golden Age Detectives [like Wimsey]with the contemporary policework of shows like Taggart. It is just 30 years since John Thaw, and a fresh faced Kevin Whateley brought the books to our screens in January 1987. The TV adaptation, in their turn, have led to many hitherto overlooked literary police personnel becoming Sunday night viewing.
There have been many fine tributes - many newspaper obituaries, a Guardian Crossword last week with a detective theme, and calls for a memorial statue to be put up in Oxford [my goodness, I am sure Dexter must have done so much to broaden the demographic of the tourist traffic in the city of dreaming spires]
On Saturday afternoon, the Radio 4 Drama was "A House Of Ghosts"  - a drama written by Alma Cullen about one of Morse's earlier cases with Lewis. Cullen was involved in writing some of the screen plays for Morse episodes, and I listened with interest to the production. It is still available on iPlayer, and the stellar cast were superb. More here
I thought that the triumvirate of Morse/Lewis/Strange was portrayed excellently by Neil Pearson [Between the Lines] Lee Ingleby [George Gently] and Pip Torrens [Poldark]. They were not seeking to recreate the original actors exactly- but somehow it felt 'authentic' The plot was good, with nods to a number of Morse memes [the car, the crossword, the booze, Lewis' domestic arrangements etc] which felt plausible rather than contrived. It was almost up to Dexter's standard- perhaps I am being picky. Certainly rated*****

I am sorry that ITV have not shown any evidence of marking either 30 years of Morse, or Dexter's death, and glad the BBC picked this one up. Having made a lot of money out of the sequel [Lewis] and the prequel [Endeavour] ... and maybe they have a Hathaway planned, who knows... you would have thought the commercial channel might at least have acknowledged the contribution of this truly gentle-man. 

He loved playing cameo parts in the Morse productions, walking or sitting in the background, not speaking, like Alfred Hitchcock [Dexter acknowledged he was not a brilliant actor, suffering from deafness which ended his teaching career in his 30s]. He always said his favourite crossword clue was "Nothing squared is a cube" - which is simple, but so clever. Like Endeavour Morse, he kept his first name fairly quiet [it was Norman, Colin was his middle name] 
Here he is in a cameo role, sitting behind Sir John Gielgud!

RIP Colin Dexter, and thank you. .-.  ..  .--.
[in case you are still scratching your head, nothing squared for a mathematician is 0 x 0 , i.e. OXO, a cube]


  1. A lovely tribute! I began reading the books long before the series but enjoyed the series almost as much, Lewis & Endeavour too. Val McDermid's tribute was especially fine (in the Guardian, I think).

  2. What a weird coincidence that I knew nothing of this but yesterday, in my year 2 music lesson I decided to add in an activity on Morsecode and then we listened to the theme music from Morsel to listen out for the Morse Code. And yet, that's the first time I've ever decided to do that activity on the day you post this!!


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