Colin Dexter

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Colin Dexter
Born Norman Colin Dexter
(1930-09-29) 29 September 1930 (age 86)
Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, UK
Occupation Novelist
Alma mater Christ's College, Cambridge
Genre Crime fiction
Notable works Inspector Morse series

Norman Colin Dexter, OBE (born 29 September 1930), better known as Colin Dexter, is 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]

Norman Colin Dexter was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire, to Alfred and Dorothy Dexter, and was educated at St. John's Infants School, Bluecoat Junior School and 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. Colin had a brother, John Alfred Dexter, a fellow classicist, who taught Classics at The King's School, Peterborough, and a sister, Avril. Alfred Dexter ran a small garage and taxi company from premises in Scotgate, Stamford.[citation needed]

Whilst at Bluecoat Junior School Colin recalls a wartime air raid where, following the sounding of the all-clear, a German Messerschmitt fighter appeared above the school and machine-gunned the playground, leaving a zig-zag pattern towards the properties opposite. At Stamford School Colin played cricket, tennis and hockey and was a member of the school 1st XV rugby team in 1948. After completing his national service with the Royal Corps of Signals, Colin read Classics at Christ's College, Cambridge, graduating in 1953 and receiving an honorary master's degree in 1958.[citation needed]

In 1954, he started his teaching career in the East Midlands, becoming assistant Classics master at Wyggeston School, Leicester. A post at Loughborough Grammar School followed 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 son and a daughter.[citation needed] 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.[1]

Dexter featured prominently in the BBC programme "How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword" as part of the Time Shift series broadcast in November 2008, in which he recounted some of the crossword clues solved by Morse.[2]

Writing career[edit]

The first books that he wrote were general studies text books.[3] He started writing mysteries in 1972 during a family holiday. "We were in a little guest house halfway between Caernarfon and Pwllheli. It was a Saturday and it was raining—it's not unknown for it to rain in North Wales. The children were moaning... I was sitting at the kitchen table with nothing else to do, and I wrote the first few paragraphs of a potential detective novel."[4] 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 are notable for his use of false leads and other red herrings.[5]

The success of the 33 episodes of the ITV television series, Inspector Morse, produced between 1987 and 2000, brought further acclaim for Dexter. In the manner of Alfred Hitchcock, he also made a cameo appearance in almost all episodes.[6] From 2006 to 2016, Dexter's character Robbie Lewis starred in a 33 episode ITV series titled Lewis (Inspector Lewis in the United States). A prequel series, starring a young Inspector Morse called Endeavour, began airing on the ITV network in 2012.

Dexter is currently a consultant on the TV series Endeavour starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam. This series is a prequel to Inspector Morse. As with Morse, Dexter occasionally makes cameo appearances in Lewis and Endeavour.[7] During filming of Endeavour, James Bradshaw (who played the part of pathologist Dr Max DeBryn) informed Dexter of his own Stamford roots and that his father had also been educated at St. John's Infants School.[citation needed]

Dexter selected English poet A. E. Housman for the BBC Radio 4 programme Great Lives in May 2008. Dexter and Housman were both classicists who found a popular audience in another genre of writing.

Awards and honours[edit]

Dexter has 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.[1] 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.[citation needed]

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.[8] In September 2011, the University of Lincoln awarded Dexter an honorary Doctor of Letters degree.[citation needed]


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)

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)

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)


See also[edit]


External links[edit]