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Stars mourn 'wonderful' Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter

The actor who starred as Inspector Morse's sidekick Lewis has paid tribute to the detective's "warm and friendly" creator, Colin Dexter, who has died aged 86.

Dexter was best known for writing the novels about the cerebral, crossword-loving, ale-drinking Inspector and for his work on the subsequent TV series and its two spin-offs.

Kevin Whately, who starred alongside John Thaw's Inspector Morse in the TV original and as the lead in spin-off Lewis until 2015, said Dexter shared traits with the detective he created.

He told BBC Radio 4's Front Row: " He was such a warm friendly guy that when he arrived on set we all adored him and he had this wonderful inquiring mind and amazing alpha brain that Morse had of course."

Inspector Morse was first introduced in 1975 in Dexter's novel Last Bus To Woodstock and appeared in more than 10 other novels, as well as several short stories.

The author was known for making cameo appearances in the ITV drama series Morse, which starred Thaw in the title role across its 33-episode run between 1987 and 2000.

Whately revealed the writer's poor acting skills prevented him from playing a bigger on-screen part.

He said: "He liked being well known actually so appearing in films appealed to him.

"Early on we used to give him the odd line but he was such a terrible actor that after that he just appeared. He would walk through a shot or be seen just through behind it.

"But he was lovely to have on set because he was still involved very much with the Lewis show and the Morse show. He would pick holes in the plots and make sure they were watertight before we would shoot them," he added.

Thaw's wife, Sheila Hancock, told the programme her husband and Dexer used to have a "great lark" on set, before reciting one of the author's favourite poems, AE Housman's How Clear, How Lovely Bright.

Other tributes poured in from stars across the Inspector Morse universe.

Actor Laurence Fox, who starred in Lewis, wrote on Twitter: "Farewell wonderful Colin. Thankyou for your rich characters, your mischief and for being the best dinner companion anyone could wish for."

Rebecca Front, who also appeared in Lewis - which ran from 2006 until 2015 - said: "Colin Dexter loved his 'Hitchcock' moments on Lewis.

"I remember him once setting me crossword clues to pass the time. I failed to solve any."

A statement from Dexter's publisher, Macmillan, confirmed that he had died at home on Tuesday.

Dexter was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to literature in 2000.

At the time, he said he would have liked to think his fictional detective would have bought him a celebratory whisky if he had been alive.

Maria Rejt, Dexter's most recent editor at Macmillan, said: "Colin was an author who inspired all those who worked with him.

"His loyalty, modesty and self-deprecating humour gave joy to many. His was the sharpest mind and the biggest heart, and his wonderful novels and stories will remain a testament to both."

Kevin Lygo, director of television at ITV, said: "We're very sad to hear this news and our deepest sympathies go to Colin Dexter's family.

"When Colin's celebrated novels were adapted for television they went on to become one of the nation's best-loved shows. John Thaw's pitch-perfect portrayal of the irascible detective with a love for crosswords, real ale and classical music was undoubtedly one of the best-loved characters of all time.

"Through 33 feature-length stories, the casebook of Morse and Lewis changed the landscape of detective drama."

Mr Lygo praised Dexter for his hands-on approach to both Morse and Endeavour, as well as Lewis, the spin-off based on the story of Inspector Morse's sergeant in the original series.

He said: "Colin was closely involved in the production of Inspector Morse, advising on scripts and making keenly anticipated cameo appearances in many of the films.

"Colin also worked closely with ITV as a consultant on Lewis. He was also one of the key creative forces behind Endeavour, the acclaimed prequel series starring Shaun Evans as the young Morse."

The most recent Endeavour series, shown this January, marked the 30th anniversary of Inspector Morse's television debut.

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