Colin Dexter, Author of the Inspector Morse Series, Passes Away at 86

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The beloved and bestselling crime writer died at home in Oxford

Author Colin Dexter.

Colin Dexter, the British crime writer and creator of the Inspector Morse series, passed away this morning. His longtime publisher, MacMillan, made the announcement and said that the beloved author “died peacefully at home in Oxford.”

Dexter sold millions of copies of his 13-book Inspector Morse series, which he wrote between 1975 and 1999. Like a certain other famous literary detective, Morse is best known for his curmudgeonly and idiosyncratic behavior; although, where Sherlock Holmes had a soft spot for morphine, violin music, and Irene Adler, Morse’s passions were British ale, crosswords, Wagner, and subverting authority. Dexter threaded the line between creating a prickly character and an unlikeable one by calling out Morse’s shortcomings through the presence of Robert Lewis, Morse’s Sargent, a working-class counterpoint to the sleuth’s intellectual elitism. Dexter’s mysteries took place in Oxford, an inspired setting — one that was both charmingly atmospheric (where mysteries could be plausibly connected to Greek cults and medieval alchemy), and one that allowed Dexter to explore social themes, like the problematic ‘old boy’ network of England’s elite universities.

Dexter’s popular characters became even more so when the books were adapted for television. Inspector Morse ran on ITV in the U.K. and PBS in the U.S. from 1987 to 2000. Dexter himself played cameo roles in all but three of the thirty-three episode series. Lewis, a spin-off, also proved widly popular during its run from 2006 to 2015. Most recently, Dexter consulted on a prequel of Morse’s life called Endeavor, which is going into its fourth season.

Dexter won numerous awards for his work, including two Gold Daggers and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature.

He was eighty-six years old.

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