The loss of a great entertainer
British writer John Mortimer, creator of the curmudgeonly criminal lawyer Rumpole of the Bailey, has died at 85, his publisher said. Mortimer combined a career as a lawyer with a prolific literary output that included dozens of screen and stage plays and radio dramas. Among his most famous creations was Horace Rumpole, the cigar-smoking, wine-loving barrister who appeared in a television series and a string of novels and stories.
"It's hard to think he's gone," said Tony Lacey, his editor at publisher Viking. "At least we're lucky enough to have Rumpole to remind us just how remarkable he was."
Born on April 21, 1923, and educated at Oxford University, Mortimer qualified as a lawyer in the 1940s and worked as a barrister in the British courts. A lifelong supporter of the Labour Party - sometimes dubbed a champagne socialist by his critics - Mortimer took up several freedom of speech cases. He defended Penguin, the publisher of Lady Chatterley's Lover, against obscenity charges in the 1960s, and later represented the radical magazine Oz at an obscenity trial.
He combined legal and literary careers, writing early in the morning before heading off to court, and produced novels and radio plays from the 1950s.
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