First Chapter First Paragraph: Rumpole by John Mortimer

Every Tuesday First Chapter, First Paragraph/Intros is hosted by Vicky of I’d Rather Be at the Beach sharing the first paragraph or two of a book she’s reading or plans to read soon.

This week I’m featuring Rumpole by John Mortimer, one of the recent additions to my TBRs. There are many collections of John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey stories. My copy was published in 1994 by the Folio Society and has ten of the Rumpole stories – they are longish short stories, thirty to fortyish pages long.


I must thank Margot (Confessions of a Mystery Writer)  for reminding me about both the books and the TV series in her In the Spotlight post on Rumpole. The same day I read her post I went to Barter Books in Alnwick and found three books by John Mortimer, including this one, a great find! The collection Margot wrote about includes the first story in my collection, but the rest are different.

Mortimer has chosen ten of his favourite Rumpole stories, saying that they are

the stories I enjoyed writing most, those which made me laugh a little when I was writing them (the only reliable test of a successful piece of work), and which drew some laughter from the actors when they read through the television versions.

It begins with an Introduction:

About eighteen years ago I thought I needed a character, like Maigret or Sherlock Holmes, to keep me alive in my old age. I wanted a sort of detective, who could be the hero of a number of stories but whose personality and approach to life were more important than the crimes with which he was concerned. He would have to be a comic character, as well as being courageous and more than usually astute, because I believe life to be best portrayed as comedy.

and the first story is Rumpole and the Younger Generation, which begins:

I, Horace Rumpole, barrister at law, sixty-eight next birthday. Old Bailey hack, husband to Mrs Hilda Rumpole (known to me only as She Who Must Be Obeyed) and father to Nicholas Rumpole (lecturer in social studies at the University of Baltimore, (I have always been extremely proud of Nick); I who have a mind full of old murders, legal anecdotes and memorable fragments of the Oxford Book of English Verse ( Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s edition) together with a dependable knowledge of bloodstains, blood groups, fingerprints, and forgery by typewriter; I, who am now the oldest member of my Chambers, take up my pen at this advanced age during a lull in business (there’s not much crime about – all the best villains seem to be off on holiday in the Costa Brava) in order to write my reconstructions of some of my recent triumphs (including a number of recent disasters) in the Courts of Law, hoping thereby to turn a bob or two which won’t be immediately grabbed by the taxman, or my clerk Henry or by She Who Must Be Obeyed, and perhaps give some sort of entertainment to those, who like myself, have found in British justice a life-long subject of harmless fun.

Phew! that is just one sentence! The rest of the story is not like that and the narrative moves along briskly and as Margot says in her post there’s a great deal of wit in the stories and courtroom repartee.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

7 thoughts on “First Chapter First Paragraph: Rumpole by John Mortimer

  1. Thank you, Margaret, for the kind link and mention. I really do hope you’ll enjoy the stories. Rumpole and the Younger Generation is a great one. That’s a lovely edition you found, by the way!


  2. I’ve only read one of the books but I recall I enjoyed it so I don’t know why I haven’t read any others. I think the TV series was so well cast.


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