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Who is Inspector Morse?

Inspector Morse is the brilliant, enigmatic detective at the heart of Colin Dexter's gripping novels, brought to life on screen by John Thaw. Known for his love of opera, classic cars, and ale, Morse solves complex crimes with intellectual flair and emotional depth. His legacy endures, captivating audiences worldwide. What secrets lie behind his iconic status? Join us to uncover the mystery.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Inspector Morse is a series of detective novels by English author Colin Dexter, a television series based on those novels, and the main character in the novels and television episodes. Let’s take them one at a time.

The character of Inspector Morse is a much more complex character than, say Miss Jane Marple or Hercule Poirot, and also unlike them, underwent development in the course of the novels. Inspector Morse is not a man whom one likes immediately: he was a bachelor who drank heavily and had an uncanny knack for choosing the wrong woman. He was testy and insensitive — even insulting — and yet, underneath the surface, vulnerable. He is also extremely intellectual — his amusements include opera and word puzzles, and impatient. And yet, although he does not go straight as an arrow for the culprit every time, he has a knack for solving convoluted and demanding cases.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

The character of Inspector Morse arose when Colin Dexter retired from a teaching career due to deafness and, several years later, began writing mysteries, while on a family vacation in 1972. That first venture turned out to be the first book in the Inspector Morse series, Last Bus to Woodstock. This work was followed by 12 more novels, and two books of 10 and 11 short stories respectively, published from 1975 to 1999. Inspector Morse novels are mainly set in Oxford, and feature Inspector Morse, a detective chief inspector, and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Lewis, a simpler, kinder man, who serves as a character foil.

The ITV series based on the novels includes 33 episodes and was created overlapping with the books’ publication, from 1987 to 2000. In ended with an episode based on Dexter’s final Morse book The Remorseful Day: The Inspector Morse Finale, from which — unlike Sherlock Holmes — there will be no return. At the end of its run, it stood as the longest-running series based on a detective in the 22 years that MYSTERY! had been on the air. Some new works based on Sgt. Lewis, played to great acclaim by Kevin Whately, have aired since, however.

Colin Dexter was closely involved with the series, making many cameo appearances in the series. And the series influenced the later books: according to John Thaw, the actor who played Inspector Morse, Dexter’s later descriptions of Morse were descriptions of Thaw as Morse. Thaw was so closely identified with Morse that people wrote to him as if he were the character and, despite his many other acting achievements, it is the role he has been most remembered for, since he died in 2002.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to LanguageHumanities about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to LanguageHumanities about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

Learn more...

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      Woman standing behind a stack of books