The retirement of a serial killer

Colin Dexter in conversation at the Edinburgh Book Festival
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The Independent Culture

Farewell Inspector Morse. Killed off by his creator Colin Dexter in his 14th adventure, there will be no prequels, no undiscovered works. The delightfully dishevelled Dexter, now 70, plans on a relaxing retirement, with no urgent requirement to pick up his pen. After the last Morse episode, "Remorseful Day", is shown on 1 November, that's it. The end. (For) Ever.

Farewell Inspector Morse. Killed off by his creator Colin Dexter in his 14th adventure, there will be no prequels, no undiscovered works. The delightfully dishevelled Dexter, now 70, plans on a relaxing retirement, with no urgent requirement to pick up his pen. After the last Morse episode, "Remorseful Day", is shown on 1 November, that's it. The end. (For) Ever.

Excuse that excruciating Morse-related pun, but one hopes Dexter takes it in the spirit it's intended. His delightful talk at the Book Festival with local hero and fellow detective writer Ian Rankin, something of a successor to the older man with his Edinburgh-set Rebus stories becoming television staples, is pure entertainment - a sit-down, stand-up show for retired Telegraph readers. Dexter's delight at the absurdity of celebrity is apparent. He regales us with the tale of how, when asked to open a Northamptonshire marina, he found himself mistaken for Mohammed Al-Fayed by a couple of locals.

Honestly, he is a natural. Set to meet a Scandinavian journalist at Oxford station, they exchange descriptions. She has been compared "to a young Ingrid Bergman"; Dexter confesses, "I'm short, fat, bald and deaf." She recognised him immediately.

This is not just an anecdote fest. The serious matter of losing control over your own creation is addressed by both men. Dexter happily admits that changes in the relationship between Morse and long-suffering sidekick Lewis required by the producers affected his own perspective when writing the later stories. "In the books, every word is mine. But I realised there had to be some compromise," he says. Then again he happily admits, "One of my few virtues is that I never watch telly."

A question about the difficulty of bumping off a leading character is addressed simply. "I felt I wasn't going to get any better. To be honest, I hadn't many ideas left anyway. We had killed enough people in Oxford." Eighty-one apparently, including four masters of the university's colleges - "not half enough, dear boy", according to one unnamed don, when offering Dexter his best wishes. Crime writing will be the poorer without him.

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