Colin Dexter

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Colin Dexter

Colin Dexter.jpg
BornNorman Colin Dexter
(1930-09-29)29 September 1930
Stamford, Lincolnshire, England
Died21 March 2017(2017-03-21) (aged 86)
Oxford, England
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge
GenreCrime fiction
Notable worksInspector Morse series (1975–1999)

Norman Colin Dexter OBE (29 September 1930 – 21 March 2017) was an English crime writer known for his Inspector Morse series of novels, which were written between 1975 and 1999 and adapted as an ITV television series, Inspector Morse, from 1987 to 2000. His characters have spawned a sequel series, Lewis, and a prequel series, Endeavour.

Early life and career[edit]

Dexter was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, to Alfred and Dorothy Dexter.[1] He had an elder brother, John,[2] a fellow classicist, who taught Classics at The King's School, Peterborough, and a sister, Avril.[3] Alfred ran a small garage and taxi company from premises in Scotgate, Stamford.[4] Dexter was educated at St. John's Infants School, Bluecoat Junior School, from which he gained a scholarship to Stamford School, a boys' public school, where one of his contemporaries was the England international cricket captain and England international rugby player M. J. K. Smith.[2][5]

After leaving school, Dexter completed his national service with the Royal Corps of Signals and then read Classics at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1953 and receiving a master's degree in 1958.[5]

In 1954, Dexter began his teaching career in the East Midlands, becoming assistant Classics master at Wyggeston School, Leicester. There he helped the Christian Union school society.[6] However, in 2000 he stated that he shared the same views on politics and religion as Inspector Morse,[7] who was portrayed in the final Morse novel, The Remorseful Day, as an atheist.

A post at Loughborough Grammar School followed in 1957 before he took up the position of senior Classics teacher at Corby Grammar School, Northamptonshire, in 1959. In 1956 he married Dorothy Cooper, and they had a daughter, Sally, and a son, Jeremy.[2] In 1966, he was forced by the onset of deafness to retire from teaching and took up the post of senior assistant secretary at the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (UODLE) in Oxford, a job he held until his retirement in 1988.[8]

In November 2008, Dexter featured prominently in the BBC programme "How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword" as part of the Time Shift series, in which he recounted some of the crossword clues solved by Morse.[9]

Writing career[edit]

The initial books written by Dexter were general studies text books.[10] He began writing mysteries in 1972 during a family holiday. Last Bus to Woodstock was published in 1975 and introduced the character of Inspector Morse, the irascible detective whose penchants for cryptic crosswords, English literature, cask ale, and Wagner reflect Dexter's own enthusiasms. Dexter's plots used false leads and other red herrings.[11]

The success of the 33 two-hour episodes of the ITV television series Inspector Morse, produced between 1987 and 2000, brought further attention to Dexter's writings. In the manner of Alfred Hitchcock, he also made a cameo appearance in almost all episodes. From 2006 to 2016, Morse's assistant Robbie Lewis featured in a 33-episode ITV series titled Lewis (Inspector Lewis in the United States).[12] A prequel series, Endeavour, featuring a young Morse and starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, began airing on the ITV network in 2012. Dexter was a consultant. As with Morse, Dexter occasionally made cameo appearances in Lewis and Endeavour.[13]

Awards and honours[edit]

Dexter received several Crime Writers' Association awards: two Silver Daggers for Service of All the Dead in 1979 and The Dead of Jericho in 1981; two Gold Daggers for The Wench is Dead in 1989 and The Way Through the Woods in 1992; and a Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement in 1997.[8] In 1996, Dexter received a Macavity Award for his short story "Evans Tries an O-Level". In 1980, he was elected a member of the by-invitation-only Detection Club.[14] In 2005 Dexter became a Fellow by Special Election of St Cross College, Oxford.[15]

In 2000 Dexter was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature. In 2001 he was awarded the Freedom of the City of Oxford. In September 2011, the University of Lincoln awarded Dexter an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.[16]


On 21 March 2017 Dexter's publisher, Macmillan, said in a statement "With immense sadness, Macmillan announces the death of Colin Dexter who died peacefully at his home in Oxford this morning."[17]


Inspector Morse novels[edit]

  1. Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
  2. Last Seen Wearing (1976)
  3. The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
  4. Service of All the Dead (1979)
  5. The Dead of Jericho (1981)
  6. The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
  7. The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
  8. The Wench is Dead (1989)
  9. The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
  10. The Way Through the Woods (1992)
  11. The Daughters of Cain (1994)
  12. Death Is Now My Neighbour (1996)
  13. The Remorseful Day (1999)[5][18]

Novellas and short story collections[edit]

  • The Inside Story (1993)
  • Neighbourhood Watch (1993)
  • Morse's Greatest Mystery (1993); also published as As Good as Gold
    1. "As Good as Gold" (Morse)
    2. "Morse's Greatest Mystery" (Morse)
    3. "Evans Tries an O-Level"
    4. "Dead as a Dodo" (Morse)
    5. "At the Lulu-Bar Motel"
    6. "Neighbourhood Watch" (Morse)
    7. "A Case of Mis-Identity" (a Sherlock Holmes pastiche)
    8. "The Inside Story" (Morse)
    9. "Monty's Revolver"
    10. "The Carpet-Bagger"
    11. "Last Call" (Morse)[5][18]

Uncollected short stories[edit]

  • "The Burglar" in You, The Mail on Sunday (1994)
  • "The Double Crossing" in Mysterious Pleasures (2003)
  • "Between the Lines" in The Detection Collection (2005)
  • "The Case of the Curious Quorum" (featuring Inspector Lewis) in The Verdict of Us All (2006)
  • "The Other Half" in The Strand Magazine (February–May 2007)
  • "Morse and the Mystery of the Drunken Driver" in Daily Mail (December 2008)
  • "Clued Up" (a 4-page story featuring Lewis and Morse solving a crossword) in Cracking Cryptic Crosswords (2009)


  • Foreword to Chambers Crossword Manual (2001)[18]
  • Chambers Book of Morse Crosswords (2006)[18]
  • Foreword to Oxford: A Cultural and Literary History (2007)[18]
  • Cracking Cryptic Crosswords: A Guide to Solving Cryptic Crosswords (2010)[19]
  • Foreword to Oxford Through the Lens (2016)[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Howard, David (December 1997). "The Inspector Morse Books of Colin Dexter". The Book and Magazine Collector (165): 13.
  2. ^ a b c Barker, Dennis (21 March 2017). "Colin Dexter obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  3. ^ Percy, Martyn (26 April 2018). "Memorial Address for Colin Dexter" (PDF). Christ Church, Oxford. p. 2. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Obituary: John Boon". 4 May 2012. Archived from the original on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d Howard, David (October 1999). "The Inspector Morse Books of Colin Dexter". The Book and Magazine Collector (187): 5.
  6. ^ "Mr. N. C. Dexter". The Wyggestonian. Vol. 57 no. 3. Leicester: Wyggeston Boys' School. July 1957. p. 80.
  7. ^ "You ask the questions". The Independent. London. 18 July 2000. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Interview with Colin Dexter". Archived from the original on 11 May 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  9. ^ "How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword, Series 8, Timeshift - BBC Four". BBC. Retrieved 21 September 2016.
  10. ^ "Character interview – Colin Dexter's Guilty Secret - Sandra Fraser". Sandra Fraser. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  11. ^ The Oxford Wine Company - Stars in their bars: Colin Dexter Archived 11 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Lewis to End after Ninth Series". BBC News. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  13. ^ "ITV commissions full series of Morse drama Endeavour". Metro. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  14. ^ Peter Guttridge (21 March 2017). "Colin Dexter obituary: Inspector Morse creator and one of the great whodunnit men". The Independent.
  15. ^ "Colin Dexter OBE". St Cross College. Archived from the original on 22 March 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  16. ^ "University of Lincoln degree honour for Morse writer Colin Dexter". Lincolnshire Echo. 2 September 2011. Retrieved 22 March 2017.[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "Colin Dexter, creator of Inspector Morse, dies aged 86". BBC News. Retrieved 21 March 2017.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Colin Dexter". WorldCat. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Oxford Through the Lens

External links[edit]