John Mortimer (1923-2009)
John Mortimer was an English barrister, dramatist, screenwriter, and author. He is best remembered for creating a barrister named Horace Rumpole, inspired by his father Clifford, whose speciality is defending those accused of crime in London’s Old Bailey.
In 2007, aged 84, he was a featured author in the Guardian’s Writers Rooms series in which he spoke about his daily routine.
“I live in a house in the Chiltern Hills that my father built when I was nine, and the room in which I write is converted from his garage. It’s the only room from which I can’t look at the garden and be distracted. I’ve worked here ever since we came back to live in the house after my mother died about 20 years ago. I wrote the whole of Paradise Postponed here, and numerous Rumpole novels, scripts, plays and articles.
I write with a pen on long sheets of paper. I’ve never learnt how to type. I try to write as early as possible in the morning, and aim to write 1,000 words a day. I stop at lunchtime, have a drink and then fall asleep. When you know what you are doing, it is good. But at the times when you don’t know, it is very difficult. What I do then is – I just write something. Keep writing. At the moment I am finding it very difficult but I have got a book I have got to finish.”
During his days as a criminal barrister it was more difficult for him to find the time to write. In a 1998 interview with the Paris Review he mentioned this.
“It was very difficult. I used to get up very early in the morning, and when I became Queen’s Counsel, a criminal lawyer, it was much easier because I would do a big case, then have a gap, then do another big case. And by the end I was only doing about five cases a year.”