John Mortimer, of Rumpole fame is another example of the adage; writers write that which they know. London born Mortimer started his professional life as an actor, and had a brief political dalliance as a member of the Communist Party before following his father’s advice and entering law. His questionable health saw him miss out on war service and he was called to the bar in 1948. Early legal work saw him work mainly on family and divorce cases before becoming known for defending publishers against censorship.
It was the experiences he gained through his career as a barrister that led to the creation of his most famous character, Rumpole of the Bailey, who was based very loosely on QC James Burge. Rumpole was actually a short play entered in a 1975 BBC anthology long before it became a series of books. Leo McKern played the character in the play so well that the television series was developed around the character, and as they say, the rest is history.
Mortimer died in January this year and the library maintains a large collection of his work, along with the unofficial biography, John Mortimer: The Devil’s Advocate by Graham Lord.