Oxford crime novelist Simon Mason has a confession to make - he has never read Inspector Morse.

Colin Dexter put the city on the map as the UK's crime capital with a series of novels he started writing in the 1970s with the Dead of Jericho.

The Inspector Morse ITV series starring John Thaw and Kevin Whately followed plus the sequels Lewis and Endeavour, with Endeavour concluding in March last year.

READ MORE: New crime series 'is like Morse for the 2020s'

Despite this legacy Mr Mason, whose DI Wilkins series has been getting glowing reviews, said he had not been tempted to pick up an Inspector Morse novel.

"I've never read any Inspector Morse, I've never seen any Morse I'm embarrassed to say," he admitted.

"I did an event with Cara Hunter called Writing in the shadow of Morse and the audience hissed when they found out.

"I have never been a huge reader of crime fiction - I like reading modern classics and poetry but I have read Cara Hunter."

READ MORE: Could Cara Hunter's crime novels follow Endeavour

Mr Mason said he took the decision not to read Mr Dexter's novels to ensure that his own Oxford-based crime novels remained different.

"If I had read Inspector Morse it could have closed down options for me in terms of locations," he added. 

Oxford Mail: Lost and Never FoundLost and Never Found is the third novel to feature DI Ryan Wilkins and DI Ray Wilkins (no relation).

When a woman's Rolls Royce is found abandoned, it sparks a murder inquiry that ranges from the homeless to rich businessmen and Oxford University students.

Dad-of-two Mr Mason, who lives with wife Eluned in south Oxford, has been in the city for 40 years and says homelessness has been very visible, with rough sleepers on the streets.

READ MORE: Saying goodbye to ITV's Endeavour and Inspector Morse 

He praised the city council and homelessness agencies for trying to help and said they had been "struggling with cuts for the past decade".

"I do like Oxford - it's a wonderful place for bringing up a family," he added.

Oxford Mail: Oxford University

The fourth novel in the series, A Voice in the Night, is due out in January, and he is contracted to write two more.

He has also written two other separate novels about people who go missing.

The author is delighted that the DI Wilkins series has been getting positive reviews and two TV companies want to "option" A Killing  in November for the small screen.

"I'm very grateful but I know that only about two per cent of novels that are optioned actually make it to the screen - it's a long road," he added.

In the meantime, he can enjoy writing more investigations for DI Wilkins and DI Wilkins.

Oxford Mail: A Killing in NovemberAnd it's given him a different perspective on the city.

"I was giving someone a lift the other day and I said 'I have killed someone in a house in St Margaret's Road' - she nearly jumped out of the car," he said.

"Of course I then explained I was talking about writing my novels.

"I really like driving through the city now that I have started killing people in it."

Lost and Never Found is published by Quercus, price £16.99.

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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