Last Bus to Woodstock, Colin Dexter.

My parents often told me about the Morse TV series starring John Thaw as the title character, but I never saw it for myself. Neither have I seen any of the spin-off series Lewis, produced after Thaw’s death that follows the continuing career of Morse’s “sidekick”.

But over the past few weeks I did take the opportunity to enjoy most episodes of Endeavour, a show depicting the early career of Endeavour Morse (who for understandable reasons insists on everyone using his family name only). That program has now ended on our local channels, until the news series is aired.

dexterThe character of Morse is based on the novels of Colin Dexter, and I was able to pick up an omnibus edition of his first two books at a charity shop. Strangely that edition reverses the order of the books, so anyone not realising, would naturally read them in the wrong order. Fortunately I realised before starting.

Last Bus to Woodstock not only introduces Inspector Morse, in that story he also meets his ongoing assistant, Sergeant Lewis. They are brought together to investigate the rape and murder of a young woman, found dead in a pub car park.

Readers are led with Morse through several possible scenarios, with a variety of perpetrators, and a few red herrings. It seems to be a contradiction to say that before the end of the book I’d correctly picked out the killer but also got it wrong.

Morse at times was contrary and manipulative in his relationship with his investigating partner Lewis, producing some amusing situations. He readily accepts the offer of a drink from one witness, but denies the same offer to his sergeant because he is “on duty”.

While the book overall was an enjoyable read, there is one aspect that was deeply troubling. Often it’s tempting to wrongly attribute a character’s viewpoint to the man who is writing that character. We need to make that differentiation – just because a character’s views are offensive, it doesn’t mean the author shares or approves of those views. But this book made me wonder.

At one stage a potential suspect expresses highly offensive views about rape – suggesting that rape is practically impossible (as if rape victims must have some complicity in the act against them).  As offensive as that opinion is, I recognised that it reflected the character and added to the possibility of his involvement in the crime. But then – a little later, very similar views were expressed by Morse, the book’s primary “good guy”.

Those circumstances made me consider that those views could also be expressions of the author’s own beliefs. That’s something I’ll keep in mind, and will consider when I read the other story (Dexter’s second novel) that came in this “omnibus” volume.

8 thoughts on “Last Bus to Woodstock, Colin Dexter.

  1. That’s a meaningful point, that readers/reviewers/critics/the general public can misconstrue a character as presenting an author’s (or writer’s, such as for music or movies) personal views. And sometimes a deliberate effort is undertaken by contrarians to cause this, while that’s not always the reason. Sometimes, the mistaken reader then takes on those the perceived viewpoints — or feels they are affirmed — which, again, is also at times promoted by contrarians or connivers.

    But it is certainly possible for an author himself or herself to in fact be trying to subtly or not so subtly put forth his own scewed wishful thinking or campaign to scew the opinions expressed in the conversation of the population. It could be interesting to see whether there will be some vehicle(s) and self-awareness placed within the book series for showing a change of heart or growth through learning with time in the author or his chosen good guy character, as opposed to a suspect.

    1. One thing I try to keep in mind as I read some of these books is when they were written.

      The Colin Dexter book dates from the mid 70s, and I’m only too aware of the kind of popular fiction that was around at that time – and also the kind of humour in TV comedies. It wasn’t a particularly enlightened time regarding gender attitudes.

      Dexter’s last Morse book was written almost 20 years ago.

      Peter Robinson is still writing his DCI Banks books today after writing the first in the mid 80s. He has developed into an award winning crime writer, so I’ll be interested to see some kind of progression in his work from those first books I’ve already commented on through to his current writing.

      1. Reading some of these “older” books can be an interesting reminder of the cultural attitudes of the past and how things have changed, even during our own lifetimes.

      2. It is very interesting, isn’t it, how people have moved forward? And how some still kick and scream against that?

      3. One of the recent changes seems to be displayed in the ongoing exposure of sexual predation in the entertainment industry.
        While those acts were always seen as wrong, they were brushed aside, ignored and even tolerated in the name of “not rocking the boat”. It has now become okay to speak out and make a stand, even to the extent of making predators pay for their behaviour in times past when that bad behaviour was more “accepted”.

  2. I wasn’t thinking this way, but this guy is actually about entertainment too. A couple days ago, a meeting was set up for him in an effort to show he’s not out of his mind. He then remarked about “the studeo” ( ! the room in which he was meeting with his cabinet !) and how he heard so many people liked what he’d done for the cameras the day before. Anyway, you may have heard that he recently claimed it wasn’t his voice on the “Access Hollywood tape” even though he admitted over a year ago it was.

    Here are a couple articles about a woman who helped to give him cover back then. Somehow, a lot of people (including long-trusted religious leaders) attributed credibility to her. She assured ministers (so-called) that he was saved, for one thing. The first article mentions the time frame when many people were unsettled by the attitude demonstrated on the recording (which many people still are, of course). Enough people to get him elected settled down to accept his characterization of “locker room talk.”

      THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW 1/12/18 Duration: 16:42
      White House mired in crisis as Russian hackers target U.S. Senate —
      A White House that can’t even organize a conference call is struggling to keep up with the more-than-daily crises created by Donald Trump, plus, past crises like alleged affairs with porn stars, while Russian hackers remain undeterred.

      And, finally, I’m originally from Missouri. So, I was interested in the recent race for governor there — and liked the other candidate (a veteran who didn’t win)… as opposed to this one (although this story hadn’t come out yet):

      Republican Tied Woman Up In His Basement

      1. { I have to correct something I said. I don’t think this guy’s opponent for governor was a veteran (in the sense of having been in a branch of the armed forces). I had that mixed up with a Missouri race for a Senate seat. The opposing candidate hoping to be the governor was someone who has significant experience in government and had been a Republican until August 2007. [I just had to correct that, although it doesn’t change anything as to the reason I shared the story.] }

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