Yesterday, the author Colin Dexter, creator of the Morse series (and hundreds of thousands of crossword clues) died aged 86.
Hearing about his death hit me harder than I would have expected. I’m currently in the middle of a binge-rewatch of the TV series, so Colin Dexter’s work is at the forefront of my mind, but this isn’t the only reason.
As well as being a fantastic writer and responsible for some of my favourite books and TV, Colin Dexter was someone I saw now and then around Oxford, the city where I was born and where I’ve lived for seven years. You’d occasionally spot him from the bus, or around and about on the street. He would turn up at the Oxford Literary Festival and at concerts – on my eighteenth birthday, he was watching the same performance as me and my family, and had a bit of my birthday cake.
I was lucky enough to see two different talks by Colin Dexter – one on the filming of the Morse series, one on crime fiction in general. (That second talk got me reading Agatha Christie, which in turn has made me want to write detective stories – so, either yay or boo for Colin Dexter, depending on how good they turn out to be). Both times, he was engaging, interesting, and incredibly funny. He told brilliant anecdotes, including one from the days before Google about a woman who had written to him to ask him to settle an argument between her and her husband; she thought he was still alive, her husband was convinced that he was dead. Sadly, she didn’t include her return address, so the husband probably won that argument.
The thing I will remember best about Colin Dexter is how he treated people like me, who loved his books and were a little overwhelmed and scared of being gushy or embarrassing. Whenever you met him, he reacted as if you were the person in the world he was most looking forward to seeing. He was always kind, always interested, always ready to talk. And he wrote a damn good detective story.