Morse. Please, don't be too hard on me.
I never saw the TV series - thought it would be a bit like the Sweeney with an Oxford brogue. OK, I was confused and misled by John Thaw playing the DCI. Can you forgive me for missing out on one of the great characters of fiction?
You see, I've started watching "Lewis" more for the character played by James Fox's son Laurence. I knew that Lewis as a sergeant had been Morse's side kick and it struck me that the University educated James Hathaway was a bit like the Morse I'd heard people talking about. Intellectual, getting one over on Lewis but having a real soft spot for the lumbering Geordie.
And there I was in the charity shop and I picked up a collection of Morse short stories, along with a collection of Rebus tales. At this point I get on my knees and worship at the feet of Ken Stott who plays (no that's inadequate) - brings to life DI Rebus.
I feel sure I've written about my love of Ken before; if not, today I've come out. I just cannot get enough of him playing that fantastic creation of Ian Rankin. No more of that: this is a paean to Morse, not a dribble session over Rebus.
One of the Morse short stories - wasn't. "Service of All the Dead" follows Morse, in and out of Oxford pubs, chronicles his dalliances with women of a certain age and girth and has him and Lewis trying to untangle a series of related murders. I was enthralled. So I couldn't wait for my next fix of Morse.
The Loughton branch of Sue Ryder's charity does a super line in detective novels. For £2.95 I bought a pristine hardback copy of Colin Dexter's "Death is Now My Neighbour." I have to say that it is probably the best value purchase I have ever made. 349 pages of sheer pleasure, magic and stunning story telling - that works out at well under a penny a page. A long way from the Penny Dreadful. I also bought a Rebus hardback for the same price. My wife has not been able to put that book down.
I've mentioned my attempts at story telling in earlier posts - I recently began a piece where the first three chapters describe three frightful murders. Well, I 've stopped - dead. Reading Morse doesn't help a not too gifted hack to write his first million seller. My attempts are as a chimpanzee with pots of paint when compared to Goya. I am reassessing my ambition to write.
I like to pride myself as being rational, intelligent certainly, even imaginative and creative. Except I cannot for the life of me follow the logic in any murder mystery. I'll spend two hours happily absorbed watching Midsommer Murders and will be completely surprised when Jim Bergerac reveals who the murderer is. I comfort myself in that I'm not alone. DCI Barnaby's series of long suffering sergeants are always the last to know who killed off half of the Home Counties. As for his wife, she spends most of her time providing him with gargantuan servings of lovely nosh while bullets and bodies rain down on her.
And what is it with Cally? Why doesn't she move away? She is so umpty - I think that's the word; sexy but in a non threatening way.
You see, I lose the plot, always.
Morse and my latest read "Death is Now My Neighbour". Loved it, couldn't put it down. Had no idea who killed whom until Morse explains to Lewis and the murderess (shit!) and then still couldn't figure it out. But frankly it didn't matter.
Morse isn't about solving crime; it's about a character who you end up feeling incredibly fond of, whose life is precious and for whom you have so many concerns and feelings. This vulnerable, clever, shy, pedantic, self destructive man affects all who meet him, as characters and as readers.
I was in tears at the end.
"For philistines like you, Lewis, as well as for classical scholars like me, this city with its baths, and temples must rank as one of the finest in Europe. You must bring your wife some time.
Did I ever get the chance to thank you for the few(!) contributions you made to our last case together? If I didn't, let me thank you now - let me thank you for everything, my dear old friend.
It doesn't get any better than that. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have been so proud.