AUTHOR, journalist and playwright Keith Waterhouse has died “quietly in his sleep”.
Waterhouse, whose works include Billy Liar and Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, was at his home in London when he passed away. He was 80 years old.
Waterhouse’s spokeswoman said he had ‘not been very well’ recently, but did not give the nature of his illness.
The revered writer came from humble beginnings as a schoolboy in Leeds, and rose to see his name in lights in the West End.
After school he became a clerk in an undertaker’s office, which provided inspiration for his book and play Billy Liar, the story of a daydreamer planning his escape from an undertaker’s job.
Following National Service in the Royal Air Force, Waterhouse achieved his ambition to be a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Waterhouse, who was also known for his witty Daily Mail column, landed his first Fleet Street job on the Daily Mirror in 1951.
He would also often draft articles and speeches for Hugh Gaitskell and Harold Wilson.
A newspaper strike in 1956 gave him the time to pen his first novel, There Is A Happy Land, set on a Leeds housing estate.
He left 10,000 words of Billy Liar in a taxi and had to start again, but said losing the “pretentious twaddle” was the best thing to happen to him.
Waterhouse was a great drinking friend of Jeffrey Bernard. Along with Willis Hall, with whom he collaborated in dramatising Billy Liar, Waterhouse wrote Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, based on Bernard’s weekly “Low Life” columns in the Spectator magazine.
The pair also scripted two acclaimed British films, Whistle Down The Wind and A Kind Of Loving.
Author Lord Bragg said of Waterhouse's death: “It’s very sad. Keith brought a lot of joy into the world.
“His novels were funny, accurate and are now part of our literary history.
“As a columnist he had an uncannily fine finger on the pulse and a wonderful wit.”