By Reg Little
INSPECTOR MORSE creator Colin Dexter has revealed he has had to end his 60-year love affair with crosswords because of failing eyesight. The author, who is approaching his 80th anniversary, was a cryptic crossword addict, but his failing vision has meant he can no longer complete the puzzles.
Mr Dexter, of Banbury Road, Oxford, suffers from a heart condition that has led to trips to the doctor and a recent short spell in hospital. He is also unable to follow TV screenings of Morse and spin-off series Lewis because of his deafness, and is now unable to accept many of the invitations he receives.
He recently had to pull out of a talk, and said: “It is the first time I have ever had to cancel any engagement.” Despite his vision problems, the author, who killed off Inspector Morse 10 years ago in his novel The Remorseful Day, has compiled a book of tips for tackling crosswords called Cracking Cryptic Crosswords, available in shops now.
“It’s only a slim volume, and a few friends have encouraged me to write it before my light goes out forever,” he said. “In addition to the real possibility this pastime offers of escaping the anxieties of Alzheimer’s, it is the most serene and civilised way of wasting time that I, now nearing 80, have as yet discovered.”
The idea for the book came from Mr Dexter’s friend Jackie Gray, a former city councillor and now a successful publisher, who saw the crime writer getting stuck into a crossword on an Oxford to London train. “He completed The Times cryptic crossword in the 15 minutes it took to reach Didcot,” she recalled. “I was in awe. Colin assured me that I could do it too, and then proceeded to tell me how.”
Despite passing on his passion for crosswords to Morse, Mr Dexter revealed he could not persuade John Thaw, the actor who played him, to become an enthusiast. Mr Dexter recounted their last conversation a few days before Thaw died of cancer. “He said, ‘I can never understand why I’m thought of as such a good actor. What I can do much better than others is learn my lines’. It was such a wonderful self-effacing view of his own talent. I loved him for that.”