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N/A Colin Dexter: The Next to Last Inspector Morse Novel Barbara Leavy

Abstract 1

     It is not until the thirteenth book in Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series, THE REMORSEFUL DAY,  that Morse dies from the ailments that already threaten his life in the previous novel, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOR.  Dexter claims that this twelfth book was intended to be the last one, but that he agreed to write one more to mollify his distressed readers.  He was very aware that Arthur Conan Doyle had not only resurrected Sherlock Holmes from the dead for similar reasons but that many more Holmes tales followed in what Dexter argues are examples of Doyle's inferior writing. He, Dexter, was not going to follow suit, and since he was running out of plot ideas, he would, in effect, stop while he was ahead.  In his explanation, Dexter evokes Agatha Christie, who had managed to ingeniously plot eighty-five books, a feat he was incapable of achieving.  But a close look at the next-to-last book in the Morse series suggests that it was not plot alone that concerned Dexter as he decided to bring his career as a mystery writer to a close.

Abstract 2

     In the twelfth book of Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse series, one can find a compelling analogy between anxieties experienced by Morse and by his creator, Dexter.  Morse, already ill with the ailments that would kill him in the next book, is also experiencing a fear that he would fail to solve the case he is working on, unable to succeed as he had in the past.  The analogy Dexter supplies is that of a best-selling author whose talent is exhausted and who doubts that he can create still another successful book.  Dexter announced to the public that he felt he was running out of ideas for his books, and he invokes Agatha Christie as a model he could not live up to.  She had ingeniously plotted eighty-five novels by his count.  A close look at this twelfth Morse novel, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOR suggests, however,  that it is not a good plot or the failure to construct one that is bothering Dexter.  First, Dexter seems to be questioning the metaphor that he uses to define Morse's detection (and Christie's fiction), the completion of a crossword puzzle.  Second, and by extension, Dexter seems to be taking a closer and perhaps harder look at the genre mystery, which is often seen as an amusing puzzle in prose.  The naming of several other mystery writers in this book, writers whose work cannot be reduced to puzzle-making, raises the possibility that Dexter was not so much running out of plot ideas as he was becoming dissatisfied with writing a traditional genre mystery with its association with clever puzzles, and did not know if he could write a crime novel that would qualify as literary art.

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