Saturday, January 17, 2009

John Mortimer, 1923-2009

I dropped by my parents' house today to help them re-arrange my Dad's office furniture, only to be greeted with the news that another of my childhood heroes had passed away, on the same day as Patrick McGoohan, no less.

I've been reading John Mortimer since I was in Junior High School, starting with his Rumpole of the Bailey series, which were made into a long-running and wonderful television series with Leo McKern as Mortimer's complicated but lovable barrister, Horace Rumpole.

They stopped making the show after McKern's passing in the late 90s, but Mortimer had recently begun turning out new Rumpole books at a steady pace over the last few years. I have them all in hardcover.

I read a lot of different kinds of books when I was growing up, but I never lost that feeling of excitement when I discovered a new John Mortimer on sale at the bookstore.

I still remember a time when I was living in L.A., with no job, no money, and no hope of getting any money any time soon, and finding a new Rumpole hardcover in a little shop down the street. RUMPOLE AND THE ANGEL OF DEATH. Hardcover. $22.95, plus tax. I spent the last penny I had for it. Still have that copy to this day. And I remember how happy it made me to sit on the couch in the apartment I couldn't afford, reading that book cover to cover.

Things have gotten better for me since then. Good enough that I could buy the complete Rumpole of the Bailey series on DVD last year, and every new hardcover he's put out without worrying about my phone getting turned off. The thing is, I would still spend my last dime on a Mortimer, phone or no phone.

It breaks my heart to think there won't be a new Mortimer on the shelves for me. Not in this life, at least.

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