Worse, he’s a chronic alcoholic, partial recluse and intellectual snob, who is incapable of forming emotional relationships with his fellow human beings, especially those of the fairer sex.
A middle-aged, middle-ranking officer in a provincial police force, he frequently arrests suspects simply because he dislikes them, or puts himself in physical danger, or dithers and allows further crimes to be committed – all because he is so bloody minded.
His brilliance is somewhat elusive, often revealed more by oblique reference than in the course of investigations, as if he trades on a reputation long since compromised. It seems we have caught the man long past his prime.
So why do I love him beyond measure?
In part, it’s these very characteristics that appeal – there is a charm to his irrascibility and a weight to his implacablilty. But there’s more to it than just that.
Consider the following (paraphrased) exchange:
MORSE: Let’s go to the pub, Lewis.
LEWIS (dismayed): Oh, it’s lentil soup in the canteen today, sir.
MORSE (sternly): It’s too warm for lentil soup!
It is a hot day and Morse needs to think; Lewis’s gastronomic desires must defer to Morse’s thirst (and there’s a great, dry humour here too).
Alcohol and cognitive function are intrinsicly linked for our hero – Morse’s law states: “There’s always time for one more pint.”
Morse’s dependency is part of the attraction, of course, and places him in a long tradition of fictional characters driven by their vices – “I don’t drink for pleasure, Lewis!”
There’s little doubt that Morse possesses a need to submit himself to reverie – and it is in such a place that he finds inspiration. His love of opera is further proof of this, as is his preference for solitude.
This is the burden he carries with him – and if he is perhaps past his best, it’s this trait that marks him as a man of distinction; a man with a mind that operates beyond the limits of narrow convention.
In certain respects he is more a man of the 19th Century; a man with a great imaginative capacity; a man who sees what other men cannot; a Holmes pitched up in Eighties Oxford.
He is not at ease with his times; the characters that float about him are deeply flawed individuals – and it…