Colin Dexter (1930-2017)


Norman Colin Dexter OBE (m. 1950), was born on 29 September 1930 and is better known as Colin Dexter, the British crime writer of the Inspector Morse series of novels.

Dexter was born in Stamford, Lincolnshire and was educated at St. John's Infants School, Bluecoat Junior School and Stamford School, a boys' public school. At Stamford School Colin played cricket, tennis and hockey and was a member of the school 1st XV rugby team in 1948. After completing his national service with the Royal Corps of Signals, Colin read Classics at Christ's College,  graduating in 1953 and receiving an honorary master's degree in 1958.

After Christ’s, he started his teaching career in the East Midlands in 1954, becoming assistant Classics master at Wyggeston School, Leicester. He then moved to take up a post at Loughborough Grammar School, before he took up the position of senior Classics teacher at Corby Grammar School, Northamptonshire, in 1959. In 1956 he married Dorothy Cooper, and they had a son and a daughter. In 1966, he was forced by the onset of deafness to retire from teaching and took up the post of senior assistant secretary at the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations (UODLE) in Oxford, a job he held until his retirement in 1988.

The first books that he wrote were general studies text books. He started writing mysteries in 1972 during a family holiday. The Morse mysteries were written between 1975 and 1999 and adapted as an ITV television series, Inspector Morse, from 1987 to 2000. In the manner of Alfred Hitchcock, he also made a cameo appearance in almost all episodes. The detective was known for his interests in cryptic crosswords, English literature, cask ale, and Wagner which reflect Dexter's own enthusiasms. His plots are notable for his use of false leads and other red herrings.  His characters have spawned a sequel series, Lewis, and a prequel series, Endeavour.

Dexter featured prominently in the BBC programme How to Solve a Cryptic Crossword as part of the Time Shift series broadcast in November 2008, in which he recounted some of the crossword clues solved by Morse.

He selected English poet A. E. Housman for the BBC Radio 4 programme Great Lives in May 2008. Dexter and Housman were both classicists who found a popular audience in another genre of writing.

Dexter has received several Crime Writers' Association awards: two Silver Daggers for Service of All the Dead in 1979 and The Dead of Jericho in 1981; two Gold Daggers for The Wench is Dead in 1989 and The Way Through the Woods in 1992; and a Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement in 1997. In 1996 Dexter received a Macavity Award for his short story Evans Tries an O-Level. In 1980, he was elected a member of the by-invitation-only Detection Club.

He was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for services to literature in the 2000 Queen's Birthday Honours List. He was presented with the OBE by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace on 27 October 2000.

Colin passed away on 21 March 2017.