22 January 2009

Forgotten Books: RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, John Mortimer

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme.

It is a long time it seems since I've read a Rumpole, but the death this week of John Mortimer (1923-2009) has prompted me to make RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY my forgotten book. The list of 27 Rumpole titles spans 33 years. They were once a staple in my crime fiction diet.
Crime fiction based in the Old Bailey with a comic side, they were a change from village cozies and police procedurals.
According to Geoffrey Robertson QC though, Rumpole can also be credited with helping to change the culture of the bar.

RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY was a collection of stories including "Rumpole and the Younger Generation", "Rumpole and the Alternative Society", "Rumpole and the Honourable Member", "Rumpole and the Married Lady, "Rumpole and the Learned Friends" and "Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade".

They established the character of Rumpole, a barrister who liked to defend rather than prosecute; who didn't really like his clients to be guilty, but accepted the inevitability of that; who had a nose for sussing out the real truth; whom you suspect had his place in Chambers because he had married well, to She Who Must Be Obeyed; who really had only one claim to immortality - The Penge Bungalow Murders.

The character though was immortalised by Leo McKern who seemed to fit the bill so well.
According to the books Rumpole was only a little younger than Mortimer himself. In all, seven television series of Rumpole of the Bailey were made from 1978 to 1992, each consisting of six episodes. A two-hour TV movie, "Rumpole's Return", was aired in 1980, between the 2nd and 3rd series.

The list of books (courtesy of Fantastic Fiction) spans four decades.

Rumpole of the Bailey (1978)
The Trials of Rumpole (1979)
Rumpole (1980)
Regina v Rumpole (1981)
Rumpole for the Defence (1982)
Rumpole's Return (1982)
The First Rumpole Omnibus (omnibus) (1983)
Rumpole and the Golden Thread (1983)
Rumpole for the Prosecution (1986)
Rumpole's Last Case (1987)
The Second Rumpole Omnibus (omnibus) (1987)
Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988)
Rumpole and the Age for Retirement (1989)
Rumpole a La Carte (1990)
Rumpole On Trial (1992)
The Best of Rumpole: A Personal Choice (1993)
Rumpole and the Angel of Death (1995)
Rumpole and the Younger Generation (1995)
The Third Rumpole Omnibus (omnibus) (1997)
Rumpole Rests His Case (2001)
Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002)
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (2004)
Rumpole and the Reign of Terror (2006)
The Anti-social Behaviour of Horace Rumpole (2007)
Rumpole Misbehaves (2007)

The UK Guardian tribute
Sarah Weinman blog post


Anonymous said...

I've never read any of the rumpole books. I did enjoy the television series immensley ;) Another list to add to my wishlist. Thanks Kerrie!

Kerrie said...

I haven't read them all by any menas, and once you have watched the TV series if is difficult not to read the books/stories without hearing Leo McKern

Dorte H said...

What a well-chosen photo! I have not read Rumpole either, but the picture makes me remember the TV series which I really enjoyed.

Kerrie said...

Yes, I was pretty pleased with that photo Dorte. Don't they look alike?

Dorte H said...

They certainly do; "two of a kind". :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember reading a book of his with Summer in the title. And watching all of these, of course.


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