Colin Dexter

(1930 – 2017)

Colin DexterBiographical Sketch

Norman Colin Dexter OBE (Stamford, UK, September 29, 1930 – Oxford, UK, March 21, 2017) was 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.

Dexter began writing mysteries in 1972 during a family holiday. 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 music by composer Wagner reflect Dexter’s own enthusiasms. Dexter’s plots are characterized by a lavish employ of false leads and other red herrings; in keeping with Morse’s (and Dexter’s) love of crossword puzzles, the path to the solution is often found by deciphering an anagram. The name of the series’s main character, Morse, is a bow to the author’s friend, Sir Jeremy Morse, a crossword devotee like Dexter himself (not, as would at first sight seem to be the case, a reference to Dexter’s military service as a Morse code operator in the Royal Corps of Signals).

The success of the 33 two-hour episodes of the ITV television series Inspector Morse, produced between 1987 and 2000, brought further attention to Dexter’s writings. In the manner of Alfred Hitchcock, Dexter made a cameo appearance in almost all episodes. The series’s theme music includes the Morse code for the name “Morse”.

From 2006 to 2016, Morse’s assistant featured in a 33-episode ITV series titled Lewis, with Kevin Whateley, who had also played Lewis in the main Inspector Morse series, reprising the role in the sequel named for his character. – A prequel series, Endeavour, featuring a young Morse and starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, began airing on the ITV network in 2012. Dexter was a consultant in the first few years of the program. As with Morse, Dexter occasionally made cameo appearances in Lewis and Endeavour. Endeavour has aired seven series, with the eighth series expected to take young Morse’s career into 1971.

Read more about Colin Dexter on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Order of the British Empire
  • 2000: Officer of the Order
Crime Writers’ Association (UK)
  • 1979: Silver Dagger – “Service of All the Dead”
  • 1981: Silver Dagger – “The Dead of Jericho”
  • 1989: Gold Dagger, Best Crime Novel of the Year – “The Wench is Dead”
  • 1992: Gold Dagger, Best Crime Novel of the Year – “The Way Through the Woods”
  • 1997: Cartier Diamond Dagger
    – Lifetime achievement award.
Detection Club (UK)
  • 1980: Member
Oxford City (UK)
  • 2001: Freedom of the City
St. Cross College, Oxford (UK)
  • 2005: Fellow by Special Election
University of Lincoln (UK)
  • 2011: Honorary Doctor of Letters
Mystery Readers Internation
  • 1996: Macavity Award, Best Short Story – “Evans Tries an O-Level”



Inspector Morse Series
  • Last Bus to Woodstock (1975)
  • Last Seen Wearing (1976)
  • The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977)
  • Service of All the Dead (1979)
  • The Dead of Jericho (1981)
  • The Riddle of the Third Mile (1983)
  • The Secret of Annexe 3 (1986)
  • The Wench is Dead (1989)
  • The Jewel That Was Ours (1991)
  • The Way Through the Woods (1992)
  • The Daughters of Cain (1994)
  • Death Is Now My Neighbour (1996)
  • The Remorseful Day (1999)
Shorter Fiction
  • The Inside Story (1993)
  • Neighbourhood Watch (1993)
  • Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories (1993)
    (AKA As Good as Gold)

    • As Good as Gold
      – Morse story.
    • Morse’s Greatest Mystery
      – Morse story.
    • Evans Tries an O-Level
    • Dead as a Dodo
      – Morse story.
    • At the Lulu-Bar Motel
    • Neighbourhood Watch
      – Morse story.
    • A Case of Mis-Identity
      – Sherlock Holmes pastiche.
    • The Inside Story
      – Morse story.
    • Monty’s Revolver
    • The Carpet-Bagger
    • Last Call
      – Morse story.
  • The Burglar in You (1994)
    – Published in The Mail on Sunday.
  • The Double Crossing (2003)
    – Published in Mysterious Pleasures.
  • Between the Lines (2005)
    – Published in The Detection Collection.
  • The Case of the Curious Quorum (2006)
    – Published in The Verdict of Us All; featurs Inspector Lewis.
  • The Other Half (2007)
    – Published in The Strand Magazine.
  • Morse and the Mystery of the Drunken Driver (2008)
    – Published in The Daily Mail.
  • Clued Up (2009)
    – Published in Cracking Cryptic Crosswords; 4-page story featuring Lewis and Morse solving a crossword puzzle.
Crossword Books and Nonfiction
  • Foreword to Chambers Crossword Manual (2001)
  • Chambers Book of Morse Crosswords (2006)
  • Foreword to Oxford: A Cultural and Literary History (2007)
  • Cracking Cryptic Crosswords: A Guide to Solving Cryptic Crosswords (2010)
  • Foreword to Oxford Through the Lens (2016)


A Selection of Quotes

The Wench is Dead

“He was somewhat of a loner by temperament – because though never wholly happy when alone, he was usually slightly more miserable when with other people.”

The Riddle of the Third Mile

“It is strange to relate (for a man in his profession) that in addition to incurable acrophobia, arachnophobia, myophobia, and ornithophobia, Morse also suffered from necrophobia; and had he known what awaited him now, it is doubtful whether he would have dared to view the horridly disfigured corpse at all.”

“During the few minutes that Lewis was away, Morse was acutely conscious of the truth of the proposition that the wider the circle of knowledge the greater the circumference of ignorance.”

Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories

“Wives invariably flourish when deserted; it is the deserting male who often ends in disaster.”

Last Seen Wearing

“As he lay abed on Sunday, 21 September, Morse was beset by the nagging feeling that there was so much to be done if only he could summon up the mental resolve to begin. It was like deferring a long-promised letter; the intention lay on the mind so heavily that the simple task seemed progressively to assume almost gigantic proportions.”

Death Is Now My Neighbor

“He poured himself a good measure of Glenfiddich; and shortly thereafter fell deeply asleep in the chair for more than two hours. Bliss.”

Find more quotes by Colin Dexter on Wikiquote and Goodreads.