Read by………………. Terrence Hardiman
Runtime………. 10 hours 54 mins
Description: The first Inspector Morse novel, Last Bus to Woodstock, appeared a quarter-century ago. This finale to a grand series presents a moving elegy to one of mystery fiction’s most celebrated and popular characters. The murder of nurse Yvonne Harrington two years earlier remains unsolved, but the Oxford police receive an anonymous tip that prompts them to revive their investigation. Morse’s superior, Chief Superintendent Strange, wants him to take over the case, but Morse is stubbornly and curiously reluctant to do so. Morse’s faithful dogsbody, the long-suffering Sergeant Lewis, is left wondering whether Morse himself is some how connected to the crime, since the inspector had encountered the murder victim during a stay in the hospital. It falls to Lewis to do most of the delving, with Morse prompting him along the way. The case seems impenetrable until the murder of burglar Harry Repp – though what could be the connection to the original murder? Lewis continues to probe while Morse remains his oracular self.
It is with the certain sadness that I reach the end of this entertaining series. *sniff* This is the one with the red running shoes, S&M sex, clarinets, birds, deafness and false teeth.
demirep (C18 from demi + rep(putation)): (rare) a woman of bad repute, esp. a prostitute
concatenation: Concatenation (from Latin concatenare, to link together) is taking two or more separately located things and placing them side-by-side next to each other so that they can now be treated as one thing.
A corking finalé this, and I look back over Lewis’s career and how he has grown from green shoot, to worthy acolyte, and then confident sleuth in his own right, albeit exhibiting distinct Morse-ian traits.
In the interview below, it suggests we are supposed to know who Morse is based on and I admit to being in the dark on this bit of trivia. The series let-down was ‘The Jewel That was Ours’, and the highlights you can spot through those ratings.
What a chuckly face he has!
Colin Dexter walks into the lobby of the Salisbury rooms in the Carlton Hyatt Hotel on Cadogan square; he is elegant and diffident, a genuine old school gentleman. We are here for a press screening of the latest Morse offering, “Death Is Now My Neighbour”. But Mr Dexter won’t be staying for the screening, he’s shooting off to Wales to address a meeting of diabetics. As a diabetic himself it is something he tries to do as often as he can. He mingles with friends and colleagues outside the screening, and when I approach he is amiable but would obviously rather just keep on chatting. He takes his leave, promising he will speak to them soon, and we disappear into a reception room and sit down on one of its sofa’s. Mr Dexter insists on sitting on the left, because, as he explains, he is quite deaf and that side is best for his hearing. The feeling remains that he has been parted him from his friends, but he is too much of a gentleman and professional to dwell on this. Mr Dexter insists that he can only talk for a few minutes because he has to catch a train, so we dive straight into the questions.
** It is well known where the character of Morse is drawn from, but what about the character of Lewis? **
Well, nowhere in particular. When I first wrote him he was the same age as me, but we’ve conveniently forgotten that now because T.V has made him so much younger. Lewis is an amalgamation of people, but certainly in the first book I thought he was a grandfather. But having forgotten what I wrote in the first book it doesn’t really bother me.
** Do you think that your writing has changed as a consequence of being represented on television? **
Well not with Morse at all, I think he’s as miserable and mean-spirited and mean-pocketed as ever he was, isn’t he? He’s a bit melancholy and sad and pessimistic about the universe and I think that John does him very well. But certainly from the Lewis point of view it makes it difficult sometimes yes. But I solve the problem easily by ignoring it. Instead of putting “The burly, middle-aged grandfather walked into the room”, I put “Lewis walked into the room”. No problem then.
** You’ve been quoted as saying that not buying a round is a worse crime than adultery. Is there a worse crime than not buying a round? **
There’s not much is there? I don’t know if you ever go to a pub, and somebody hangs back, and just when all the glasses are going he gets up, or she gets up, and says “I’m awfully sorry but I’ve got to go”. And I feel really that these people are disastrous in a social sense. At least there’s something to be said for adultery, but there’s nothing at all to be said for just being so miserably mean-pocketed that you never buy a round, and Morse is like that. Poor old Lewis is on half the salary and has to buy nine tenths of the beer.
** Do you have a favourite beer? **
I like any beer. I’m not really a fan of any particular beers or pubs. What I am a fan of is the landlord, if the landlord can keep the beer well he’s a friend of mine. But so many landlords haven’t got a clue, they don’t know anything about storage or temperatures. So if I find a good pub with a good landlord then that’s my favourite.
** In the past you’ve talked about Morse’s pessimism and you’ve said that you share some of that pessimism. **
I’m profoundly pessimistic about the future of the human race. It’s not just a question of Adolf Hitler or Saddam Hussein, wherever you look there’s immense cruelty and signs of man’s inhumanity to man. We learn more about it than we used to. I do feel more and more pessimistic about the ability of the human race to survive with itself
** Is that in an environmental or military sense? **
Environmental, certainly. But military above all I think. We are lacking any compassionate interest in our fellow human beings, you see it all the time and you see more of it now. I don’t give us much chance; two or three decades.
** You have been quoted as saying that in your view there are three main accolades for a crime writer: to be mentioned in Private Eye; to be awarded a dagger by the Crime Writers Association; and to be included in the summer selection that the Royal Family takes to Balmoral every year. Now, you’ve achieved all of those, but which gave you the most satisfaction? **
I’ve won a diamond dagger from the Crime Writer’s Association. I think that because it’s not given for an individual book, it’s given for services to crime fiction. I won that last year and only twelve people have won it.
** In the early series of Morse, Anthony Minghella was a writer and Danny Boyle was a writer and director. Did you work with them much? **
Yes, I worked with them a lot. Anthony did the first one we ever did, The Dead Of Jericho, and that was excellent. I got to know him quite well, and we did try to get him to do one or two of the later screen plays , but he was engaged in rather more important things. I do have contact with the directors but above all I have contact with the screenplay. Usually I go through these with the producer rather than the director, and very often with the actual screenwriter.
** Is there any significance to Morse’s car registration -248 RPA? **
No, I don’t think there is. We tried to get a
Lancia but instead we got this clapped out pre-electrics non-M.O.T. Jaguar.
** You don’t like it? **
Yes, but it’s a bugger to drive according to everybody who drives it.
** You’re quoted as saying that once you start to write, ideas happen in an almost physical way. Can you elaborate on that? **
Well I think that you’ve got to be prepared to write a load of nonsense to start with and then you can tart it up. The business of getting going, getting started, is enormously important , and this can be physical. Solvitur Ambulando as the Romans used to say, which means the solution comes through walking.
** Morse’s lustfulness and alcohol dependency have been watered down for television. Does that worry you? Does it make him a different character? **
No, I think that T.V. and radio and novels are totally different mediums. When you’ve got an hour and 5 minutes to squash 360 pages, things have got to go; literary clues have got to go, an awful lot of thinking has got to go. You can’t think on the T.V. and you can’t drink that much on the T.V. Morse is not giving up booze, it’s the only thing that he’s not giving up.
** You say that you began writing Morse on a wet family holiday in Wales in 1972. And, from what I can make out, it was, initially at least, a product of boredom. Is that accurate? **
My children used to ask why I didn’t take them to places where the sun was always shining like everybody else’s father did. Everybody gets fed up with children on holiday, especially when it’s raining. Anyway, there where two detective stories there and I read them and thought that they were pretty ordinary, and I thought that I could do just as well. I didn’t write very much when I started, I think I only wrote two paragraphs or one page at the outside. But that was the time I thought I’d try to write.
With that, Colin Dexter takes his leave. He shakes hands and says that he is awfully sorry but he has forgotten my name. Then he walks slowly to the door, upbraiding himself like the gentleman he is, saying that he really will try and remember it next time.
Colin Dexter says he currently has no plans to write a new Morse book, but pre-production is already underway for next year’s Morse film based on an earlier novel ‘The Wench is Dead’. © Carlton Television MCMXCV11.(1997)
4* Last Bus to Woodstock (Inspector Morse, #1)
3* Last Seen Wearing (Inspector Morse, #2)
3* The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (Inspector Morse, #3)
3* Service of All the Dead (Inspector Morse, #4)
3* The Dead of Jericho (Inspector Morse, #5)
4* The Riddle of the Third Mile (Inspector Morse, #6)
3* The Secret of Annexe 3 (Inspector Morse #7)
3* The Wench Is Dead (Inspector Morse, #8)
3* The Jewel That Was Ours (Inspector Morse, #9)
3* The Way Through The Woods (Inspector Morse, #10)
4* The Daughters of Cain (Inspector Morse, #11)
3* Death Is Now My Neighbor (Inspector Morse, #12)
5* The Remorseful Day (Inspector Morse, #13)
3* Morse’s Greatest Mystery and Other Stories