Art mirrors life, as Inspector Morse is finally defeated by drinking and diabetes

CHIEF INSPECTOR Morse was killed off yesterday. Which means we must be rather concerned about the health of his creator, Colin Dexter.

The more Dexter spoke yesterday, the more it became clear that the detective's state of health - physical, mental and spiritual - mirrors that of his creator.

The novelist called a press conference to confirm that Morse, as long rumoured, does indeed expire in the latest and last novel which is in the shops today. He dies of complications from diabetes, exacerbated by too much alcohol.

Dexter has diabetes and said yesterday: "I was up all night eating cereal and sugar. I have a lot of trouble with my diabetes, which is not helped by my one vice. I drink far too much alcohol."

Both novelist and detective are aficionados of philosophy, literature, music and The Archers. Morse is turning 70, Dexter is turning 69. Rarely has a novelist had so blatant an alter ego.

In such circumstances, sending your hero to his grave is a bold move. But, in chapter 74 of The Remorseful Day, Morse falls into a diabetic coma at home. However, he regains consciousness and is able to dial 999.

He contemplates death while being ferried to hospital in the ambulance and wakes to find his long-suffering colleague Lewis by his bed. In the next chapter his condition is "critical but stable" and, shortly after a glass of whisky, he tells the nurse "thank Lewis for me". But the nurse does not hear him properly.

Art mirrors life. At yesterday's press conference in London, Lewis was yet again not there to hear what was being said. Morse's television persona, John Thaw, was at the novelist's side. But Lewis, or rather the actor Kevin Whately, was absent. He is undergoing a trauma that even the king of detective thriller writers cannot solve - contractual difficulties with ITV, which could even keep him out of the final Morse television film, when the new novel is filmed next year.

Dexter, though, was on form and needed little help in addressing his hero's demise. "I'm naturally saddened," he said, "to take leave of the melancholy, sensitive, vulnerable, independent, ungracious, mean-pocketed Morse. He has lived with me now for more than a quarter of a century.

"With the body count in books and on TV risen to almost 80, Oxford has become the murder capital of the UK, and the time has come to put an end to this."

Dexter added: "Various possibilities suggested themselves. Retirement perhaps; perhaps less probable, marriage; failure in a case; the sack; nervous breakdowns; death while performing CID duties, or death when he was not on duty.

"I decided myself that Morse must die."

Dexter said that Morse would be turning 70 next year and he suspected few people got better as they got older. Was he talking about Morse or was he talking about himself? Again the two appeared to merge.

"Certainly," he ruminated, "in the last few years I have found it increasingly difficult to pursue the lonely and demanding discipline of writing. It is time for me to finish, too."

John Thaw, who first played Morse in 1987, said he was saddened by the character's death. "It is a great pity that the old chap's got to go. I think we'll miss him in a lot of ways.

"But if Colin Dexter says Morse is dead, that is good enough for me. I would not make any more films about Morse after his death."

Morse fans will find in the last book that their hero appears reluctant to reopen an unsolved murder case, which may lead them to the conclusion he is implicated in the death in some way. Devotees have to wait until the last chapter to clear up the mystery and establish the truth.

As for Morse's death, it is an ill wind ... The British Diabetic Association last night used it for a new publicity campaign. "Had he pursued a healthier lifestyle," it said in a statement, "he could have continued to be the scourge of the criminal element for many years to come."

John Walsh, Review, page 4

DETECTIVE DEPARTURES: THOSE WHO WENT BEFORE

Sherlock Holmes

The deerstalker-wearing detective originally died in a cliff top fight with arch enemy Professor Moriarty. His creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, finished off his hero because no one took his other fiction seriously. However, Holmes returned in The Adventure of the Empty House, explaining to Dr Watson that he had beaten Moriarty by wrestling him over the edge of the falls.

Hercule Poirot

The Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie and famous for his "little grey cells". He dies after refusing to take his medicine, thereby concealing the identity of the murderer in his final mystery. Christie wrote the book, Curtain, during the Second World War because she was afraid that she might die, but her publishers persuaded her to place it in a bank vault.

Van der Valk

The Dutch detective who worked in Amsterdam was the basis for a 1970's television series and was killed off by author Nicolas Freeling, a cook married to a Dutch woman. The author angered many readers when his hero was shot dead less than half way through A Long Silence, the last of eleven books. In The Widow, the detective's wife, Arlette, became the hero.

Sir Frances Varney

Known as Varney the Vampire, he was an anti-hero and the first popular fictional character to be killed-off by a bored author, James Malcom Rymer. Mr Rymer wrote the serial, The Feast of Blood, which was over a million words long, between 1845 and 1847.

Varney ended his days by throwing himself into Mount Vesuvius, because like the author, he was bored.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Voices
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
voices
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
News
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
News
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living