His 13 “Morse” novels were adapted for the series starring John Thaw, which aired on broadcaster ITV in the U.K. and was distributed across the world. Dexter’s publisher announced the news in a statement on Tuesday: “With immense sadness, MacMillan announces the death of Colin Dexter, who died peacefully at his home in Oxford this morning.”
Kevin Whately, who played Morse’s sidekick Lewis in the series, described Dexter as “impish and bubbly and always fascinated with everybody and everything,” the BBC reported.
Kevin Lygo, director of television at ITV, said “Inspector Morse” was “one of the nation’s best-loved shows,” and Thaw’s “irascible detective with a love for crosswords, real ale, and classical music” was one of the most popular characters of all time.
“Through 33 feature-length stories, the casebook of Morse and Lewis changed the landscape of detective drama,” he said.
Dexter’s books also inspired the TV prequel “Endeavour,” with Shaun Evans as the young Morse, and “Lewis,” the sequel starring Whately.
Born Norman Colin Dexter on Sept. 29, 1930, in the town of Stamford in the English midlands, Dexter served in the Royal Corps of Signals in the British army, before going on to study at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
Dexter originally started out writing textbooks, but he decided to switch to crime fiction after he penned a few paragraphs while on a rainy family holiday in North Wales in 1972. His first Morse novel, “Last Bus to Woodstock,” was published in 1975 and introduced the world to the cantankerous, yet highly intelligent policeman.
MacMillan’s publisher, Jeremy Trevathan, described Dexter’s death as a “tectonic shift in the international crime writing scene.”
“Colin represented the absolute epitome of British crime writing, and in the 1990s John Thaw’s Inspector Morse took over Wednesday night television,” Trevathan added. “He was one of those television characters who the nation took to their hearts. This is a very sad day for us all.”