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Saturday, 17 January 2009

John Mortimer

I was sad to hear of the death of John Mortimer - the creator of the famous barrister who never prosecutes - Horace Rumpole - he of the small cigars, Pomeroy's plonk and the Oxford book of English verse - Quiller Couch edition. I have been a fan of Rumpole for years and re-read the stories regularly, to the extent that I recently replaced my battered Penguin paperbacks with 3 omnibus volumes of the early stories. I have the rest in hardback as I've bought them when they were first published.

Of course the character was brought to life for television for that excellent actor Leo McKern. For many people he was the epitome of Rumpole and I must admit when I'm reading the stories it is the actors from the TV series I can picture. Guthrie Featherstone - head of chambers and MP - played by Peter Bowles; Patricia Hodge as Phyllida Trant - later Erskine Brown and all the others whose names I have now forgotten but whose faces live on as their characters.

The stories are memorable for their author's knowledge of human nature as well as the law and each is perfect in itself. They are excellent examples of the short story teller's art. John Mortimer may be dead but Rumpole will live on.

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