Colin Dexter Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Colin Dexter’s major accomplishment was his creation of the unforgettable Inspector Morse. The novels of the Morse series have made Dexter an important and influential figure in modern English detective fiction. In a poll, Dexter’s fellow mystery writers chose Morse as their favorite male sleuth, ahead of Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Nero Wolfe, and Adam Dalgliesh. Others have compared Dexter to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler because he has written not only good detective stories but also high-quality literature. The novels of the Morse series have brought Dexter fame, fortune, and fans around the world, some of whom travel to Oxford to meet him and to relive their favorite scenes from the novels. The Crime Writers’ Association has awarded him its Silver Dagger Award twice (1979 and 1981) and its Gold Dagger Award twice (1989 and 1992). He has also received this organization’s Cartier Diamond Dagger for outstanding services to crime fiction.

Morse made his first appearance in Last Bus to Woodstock (1975), a novel that introduced several of Dexter’s principal techniques and themes, such as insightfully choosing epigraphs relevant to each chapter’s subject and mood. Readers also encounter the theme of Morse’s fallibility, because he often misidentifies the murderer in the early stages of his investigations. Dexter also uses Morse’s companion, Sergeant Lewis, to update this relationship between detective and associate that...

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(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Dexter, Colin. “The Man Behind Inspector Morse.” Interview by David Brown. Christian Science Monitor 89 (April 2, 1997): 15. This transcript of a radio interview conducted in Boston deals with the personal background to the novels, an analysis by Dexter of Morse’s character, and his explanation of why the novels and the television series have been so successful.

Edmonds, Joanne. “Creation, Adaptation, and Re-Creation: The Lives of Colin Dexter’s Characters.” In It’s a Print! Detective Fiction from Page to Screen, edited by William Reynolds. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1994. Some critics have complained about the omissions and distortions in the television versions of Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, and this article analyzes what is lost and gained when his characters appear in the new medium.

Heinz, Drue, et al. “Criminal Conversations.” The Paris Review 44 (Winter, 2002-2003): 178. This is the fifth in a series of conversations with well-known writers to be published by The Paris Review. It is an edited version of discussions on the subject of crime writing held at a villa on Lake Como in Italy, and Dexter was very much a part of this seminar.

Karnick, S. T. “Detective and Mystery Stories.” American Spectator 33 (December, 2000/January, 2001): 40-55. In this article, Dexter’s first Inspector Morse novel is compared with Edward D. Hoch’s “The Problem of the Covered Bridge” and Tony Hillerman’s Skinwalkers (1986). These, and other examples Karnick analyzes, are seen as representatives of how new authors have breathed life into the moribund puzzle-solving mystery.

May, Radmila. “Murder Most Oxford.” Contemporary Review 277 (October, 2000): 232-239. This article seeks to answer the question of why the Oxford setting has proved so important and beneficial in the novels of the Inspector Morse series and in the novels of other authors. May tries to show how both the real and mythical Oxford informed these stories.