Ode To John Mortimer

January 16, 2009

John Mortimer, 85, has died, as reported in the International Herald Tribune. Mortimer was a barrister, taking over his father’s law practice, but was more famous as the author of numerous Rumpole Of The Bailey books. To quote the Tribune:

“Mortimer created the character Rumpole of the Bailey, an endearing and enduring relic of the British legal system who became a television hero of the courtroom comedy.

To read Rumpole, or watch the episodes is to enter not only Rumpole’s stuffy flat or crowded legal chambers, but to feel the itch of his yellowing court wig and the flapping of his disheveled, cigar ash-dusted courtroom gown.

Rumpole spends his days quoting Keats and his nights quaffing claret at Pommeroy’s wine bar, putting off the time that he must return to his wife, Hilda, more commonly known as She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Using his wit and low-comedy distractions, Rumpole sees that justice is done, more often than not by outsmarting the “old sweethearts” and “old darlings” of the bench and revealing the inner good – or at least integrity and inconsistency – of the accused, including clans like the Timsons, whose crimes have kept generations of police officers busy.”

Mortimer also adapted Brideshead Revisited, written by Evelyn Waugh, for television. Click here to put a hold on the many Rumpole books and Mortimer’s novels and autobiography in the LION catalog.

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