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Saturday, January 17, 2009

John Mortimer: An Appreciation

Sir John Mortimer died yesterday at the age of 85. He had been fading for awhile I believe, but he was a National Treasure. His most famous creation --Rumpole is truly one of the great characters in English literature. The books are best savoured like fine wine. They bear rereading and I believe are destined to become classics. It is the gentle humour, combined with the acute observation of human nature that makes the stories. And John Mortimer has long been one of my favourite authors. Thankfully I have a few signed copies of his books. I also have an apron with She Who Must Be Obey emblazoned on the front and a tattered cookbook from the Rumpole Society that has recipes for Dodo MacKintosh's cheesy bits...
I loved the way he could turn a phrase, or describe a character with a few well chosen words. He also had a wonderful work ethic -- rising at 5 am to write and did say in an interview that he hoped to be writing until he died. I hope he was.
Back in 1986, my husband (then boyfriend) sent me a copy of Paradise Postponed for my birthday. I have clear memories reading it on a snowy Minnesota day. It provided an insight into popular British culture that proved invaluable when a few years later when I moved permanently to the UK. Yes, it is satire but wonderful satire it is. It is the little things that are hard when you first move to a country. And when my children were little, I went and found Biggles books...as they were supposed to be good...
But it was the Rumpole stores where his genius took full flight. In many ways, he described a vanishing world where eccentricity and independence come to the fore. Rumpole was a great advocate for the independant Bar and the indivdual. I, for one am pleased that Sir John decided to write as well as practice law.
And if you have not read the Rumpole books -- read them and enjoy. Sir John Mortimer's words are his greatest legacy.

3 comments:

Nell Dixon said...

He'll be much missed.

Phillipa said...

Michelle. I loved his Rumpole books too and I was lukcy to interview at him house in Turville Heath a few years ago when I worked for the local paper. He was a lovely and fascinating man.

joshua said...

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