Writer and journalist Keith Waterhouse dies aged 80

Author, playwright and renowned journalist Keith Waterhouse died earlier today aged 80.

A spokeswoman for his family said the Fleet Street veteran died quietly in his sleep at his London home this morning.

Married twice, Waterhouse had recently suffered ill health and had been cared for by his second ex-wife, Stella Bingham.

In his life he wrote around 60 books, including 16 novels, and was behind many television series.

He co-wrote two acclaimed British films, Whistle Down The Wind and A Kind Of Loving but is arguably best know as the author of Billy Liar and for penning a twice-weekly column the Daily Mail.

He’d written more than 2,000 columns for the Mail by the time he retired from contributing regular pieces in May.

His words had been a staple of the paper for more than 23 years and his decision to step down brought to an end a 60-year career as a reliable cornerstone of newspaper journalism.

Waterhouse’s final piece appeared in the Mail last month to celebrate the 50 anniversary of the publication of Billy Liar, his story of a daydreamer planning his escape from an undertaker’s job that was later turned into a play and an award-winning film.

He wrote, in typically rumbustious fashion, about the genesis of the book, charting how it became an overnight success springing him to public notoriety.

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 Billy Liar.

Following National Service in the Royal Air Force, Waterhouse started as a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post and spent 35 years at the Daily Mirror before joining the Mail in 1986.

In a 2004 poll of journalists by the British Journalism Review, Waterhouse was named the runaway winner of best newspaper columnist.

A year later Waterhouse was named by Press Gazette as one of the 40 best journalists of the previous 40 years in National Newspapers Hall of Fame.

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