Saturday, January 17, 2009

John Mortimer, 1923-2009

John Clifford Mortimer always wanted to be a writer and an actor. But his barrister father strongly discouraged it, telling him, "My dear boy, have some consideration for your unfortunate wife...[the law] gets you out of the house." So Mortimer became a lawyer instead, in 1948.

That hardly stopped his writing career, however. For the next 35 years Mortimer managed to follow both paths, practicing law and writing for the stage, screen, and television, as well as novels. (He retired from his law practice in 1984.)

Though his works were varied and numerous he is best known in this country for creating the barrister Horace Rumpole, immortalized on television by Leo McKern. Rumpole began life as the lead character in a single television play, which was later expanded into a television series, as well as a number of novels. The most recent novel, Rumpole Misbehaves, came out in paperback this past November and is available at Accent on Books.

John Mortimer died earlier this week after a long illness. He was 85. A BBC obituary can be found here.

Said Mortimer's longtime friend and neighbor, the writer Melvyn Bragg, "There was a whiff of erudition and scandal always around John and it was completely seductive and he'll be badly, badly missed."

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