INSPECTOR MORSE creator Colin Dexter has said he would be “delighted” if the handwritten manuscript of his first novel fetches between £30,000 and £50,000 at auction.

The autographed and heavily annotated manuscript of Last Bus to Woodstock will go under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London on Wednesday, December 12.

The 280 pages, written variously in blue, black and green ballpoint pen make it possible to reconstruct the novel’s composition.

Mr Dexter, 82, from North Oxford, said: “I never thought that anything I wrote would be quite as well thought of.”

The author penned his first ever novel while he was still working for the Schools Examination Board in 1974, after reading two whodunnits on a summer holiday.

“I never thought I could do a better job than anyone else, all I said was that it would not be bad if I had a go at it,” he said.

After finishing the draft copy, he sent it to the leading crime publisher of the day, Collins. It kept the novel for several months and then rejected it.

Mr Dexter immediately sent it out again to Macmillan, where it was warmly welcomed.

Mr Dexter, who lives in Banbury Road, said: “I have never typed a single letter of the English language on a typewriter, and I am frightened of all computers.

“I get a piece of paper, usually A4, with a blue biro, I write and write, then when it is finished I go back over it.”

After Last Bus to Woodstock was published, an admiring fan, Ian Bradley, a teacher from Bury, wrote straight away saying how much he liked the story.

Mr Dexter offered the manuscript to Mr Bradley in 2000, who said he would be delighted to accept.

“But,” said the author, “he probably had no idea how much it would become worth.

“If he gets the money he deserves it.”

The story opens with two girls in Oxford debating whether to catch a bus to Woodstock or hitchhike.

Inspector Morse first appears at a Woodstock pub standing over the dead body of one of the girls.

Moments later, a young sergeant called Lewis impresses the inspector with his efficient gathering of witnesses, and so begins a friendship which would last for decades to come.

Sotheby’s books and manuscripts specialist Dr Gabriel Heaton said: “This is the moment when the good inspector first enters the world.

“It shows Dexter’s first imaginings of this character who was going to become incredibly familiar to millions of people.

“This manuscript is worth £30-£50,000.”

The manuscript is inscribed: “...Original manuscript of Last Bus to Woodstock (written 1974) Given to my very good friend Ian Bradley 24.2.2000 Colin Dexter (Oxford, at the Trout).”

Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels inspired a TV series starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately which ran for 33 episodes over 13 years.

Nearly 14 million people tuned in to watch the final episode in 2000, when Morse died from a heart attack. Millions now watch the Morse spin-off dramas Lewis and Endeavour.