I was saddened to read that John Mortimer died on Friday. His Rumpole short stories and novels have provided me with many hours of entertainment and much food for thought, and I am very sorry that there will be no more. In wake of the news, I went back and read an 2003 interview with John Mortimer in Tasting life twice: Conversations with remarkable writers by Ramona Koval. Of Rumpole, Mortimer said:
“Geoffrey Robertson said Rumpole had changed the law. I’m not quite sure whether he wasn’t claiming a bit too much for him. I thought of Rumpole basically because I wanted a character to keep me alive in my old age, like Maigret or Sherlock Holmes or something. But I also wanted to write about all those great principles, which I do believe in- and which are being so terribly attacked by this government, among other disgraceful governments- of being tried by your peers, the presumption of innocence, that the police shouldn’t invent more of the evidence than is absolutely essential. These principles aren’t respected by politicians, who really want to take over everything into their own hands, and they’re not really at the top of the list of the general public, but they’re kind of kept alive by criminal barristers. They go around some rather unsympathetic courts upholding these great principles, and so I did also want to say that lawyers aren’t all rich, fat cat liars. They do serve a useful purpose.”
As a law student who hopes to follow Horace Rumpole’s example, I applaud that and urge anyone who hasn’t yet read John Mortimer to give him a go.