Monday, July 2, 2007

Author Recommendation #1 - Colin Dexter

A number of the recommendations that I’ll be making in the days ahead pertain to police procedurals and mysteries. The best of the genre offer intellectual challenge, well constructed plots, excellent characterization, and, in the case of an ongoing series, the opportunity for the reader to develop a real affection for the authors’ protagonists.

My first selection is Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series. Some of you may be familiar with the character through the films carried by PBS over the years. Although the film series is very good, with the late actor John Thaw very well cast as Morse, the books are superior, in the way that books always seem to be.

First recommended to me by Murray, an old teaching colleague, I was immediately captivated by the character of Morse whose first name, by the way, we only ascertain in the final book of the series, The Remorseful Day. (I won’t spoil it for you.)

Irascible, given to overindulgence in alcohol, and often both condescending and insulting to his subordinate Lewis, Morse would, with the avid mind of a crossword puzzle addict, relentlessly piece the clues together, often to only find that he was completely wrong! Rest assured, however, that he would ultimately solve the case.

Colin Dexter achieved a type of character that is uncommon in my reading experience. First, as the years went by, Morse aged, unlike some of the seemingly eternal sleuths of popular fiction. As he aged, I think both his loneliness and estrangement from normal human relationships deepened. My suspicion was that his knowledge of human nature, derived from his many years as a police inspector, made it impossible for him to ever have a lasting relationship with a woman. In fact, his only friend throughout the entire series seemed to be the much abused Lewis who, with unfailing affection for his boss, would put up not only with Morse’s temperament, but also his apparently endless capacity for sticking Lewis with the bar tab, (“I’m sorry Lewis, I seem to have forgotten my wallet. Do you mind?”) even though the latter only ever seemed to drink orange juice.

So Inspector Morse, this very flawed, and therefore very human character, was someone I would greet as an old friend every second summer, as per Colin Dexter’s output. Sadly, it was after about 14 novels that he decided to end the series. It truly was a remorseful day.

Below I have included a link to a Colin Dexter website, which lists the books in publication sequence. I strongly suggest that you start with the first novel, and work your way through them. You have many reading pleasures awaiting you.

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