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Death of a crime writer

27 March 2017

The recent death of Colin Dexter has produced plaudits from fellow-authors and editors alike. In the UK he was one of our best-loved crime writers inspiring a uniquely affectionate response amongst readers and the publishing world alike.

Quoted in Bookbrunch, fellow crime writer Peter James praised him highly:

"I think Colin Dexter truly changed both the landscape of British crime fiction and also its stature in the canon of literature. Before Morse, Agatha Christie's characters were the most iconic detectives, but her principal male detective, Poirot, although very engaging, was really a cipher, who was there to solve the puzzles she set her readers and who never developed from novel to novel.

"Morse was a revelation. Here for perhaps the first time was a detective who had a life beyond the printed page - and later the television screen. Morse was a man any of us could imagine having a pint with in a pub. But more than that, if any of us would be unlucky enough to have a member of our family or a close friend murdered, Morse was the man we would want in charge of the case. The nearest parallel in the history of crime fiction would be Sherlock Holmes - a fierce intellect, a quirky, difficult personality, and a profoundly cultured man. Morse was a Holmes for our modern times.

"He has been a huge influence on many of the current generation of crime fiction writers - I drew elements from him in creating Roy Grace and I see his influence in so many of the books I read today in our genre. I'm sure there is some of him in Ian Rankin's Rebus and his love of the Oxford Bar. But most importantly of all, I believe Colin Dexter played a very significant role in elevating the status of crime fiction into the major role in the canon of literature it holds today. Dexter was a giant of a writer, an innovator and a true visionary. All of us today who write crime fiction owe him a debt."

And, from editor Maria Rejt, now publisher of the Mantle imprint at Pan MacmillanOne of largest fiction and non-fiction book publishers in UK; includes imprints of Pan, Picador and Macmillan Children’s Books, who edited him in the nineties:
"Colin leaves behind one of our greatest detectives. Morse is as beloved as Sherlock, and others who followed remain somewhat in their shadows. Together with PD James and Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter was responsible for our second Golden Age of detective fiction. And when you read masterpieces like The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, The Wench is Dead, and The Way Through the Woods you cannot argue with that.

"I was Colin's editor from August 1990, for six wonderful years. He taught me so much and being his editor still makes me so proud."

Guardian obituary