John Mortimer, He Who Must Be Obeyed

Like millions of other fans, I was sorry to hear that John Mortimer passed away on Friday at his home in Oxfordshire, England. He was 85. In a series of witty novels, the British lawyer-turned-writer brought to life his alter ego: the barrister Horace Rumpole, made even more famous in a popular TV series on BBC.

You can read the Post's obituary here. (Ironically, I can't find this obit on our Web site -- though it appears in today's paper, so this is a link to the syndicated version in the LA Times.) (Surely, there's another blog entry on that subject.....)

I met Mr. Mortimer 10 years ago when I was working for the Christian Science Monitor. A photographer and I went to his room at the Ritz, and he ordered up an English tea for us with little sandwiches and cookies. A cheery young publicist brushed the crumbs off his vest as we talked. Earlier that day, the Senate had found President Clinton not guilty, and Mr. Mortimer was delighted with the comedy of our national ordeal. "You couldn't make it up, could you?" he laughed. "You Americans ought to be grateful...for making politics slightly more entertaining." The biggest challenge for a modern-day satirist, he told me, was deciding how to alter the ludicrous events of real life. The novelist has "to tone it down in order to make it remotely credible."

-- Ron Charles

By Ron Charles |  January 17, 2009; 10:30 AM ET Ron Charles
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