Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 17:37 UK

Billy Liar author Waterhouse dies

Keith Waterhouse
Waterhouse also wrote the Worzel Gummidge series for television

Author and playwright Keith Waterhouse has died "quietly in his sleep" at the age of 80, a spokeswoman has announced.

Waterhouse made his screenwriting debut on the 1961 film Whistle Down The Wind.

But he remains best known for the 1959 novel Billy Liar - which was made into a critically acclaimed film starring Tom Courtenay in 1963.

He was a prolific newspaper columnist and playwright with works including Mr and Mrs Nobody and the 1989 West End hit Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.

The play, based on the fellow journalist Jeffrey Bernard's weekly column in the Spectator magazine, was co-written with his frequent collaborator Willis Hall.

The play's original star was Peter O'Toole, who returned for the revival 10 years later at London's Old Vic.


The Yorkshireman started his career in Leeds

School syllabus

Leeds-born Waterhouse was one of Britain's most prolific authors, with more than 60 books, plays and television scripts to his credit.

His twice-weekly column appeared in the Daily Mirror for 16 years, winning him three awards for columnist of the year in 1970, 1973 and 1978. He transferred to the Daily Mail in 1986.

Keith Waterhouse, aged 80, died quietly in his sleep this morning
Family statement

During his many years working as a journalist, he wrote books including Maggie Muggins, Bimbo and his 1994 memoir City Lights - although Billy Liar remained his most admired novel.

Liar, the story of a daydreamer planning his escape from a job as an undertaker, went on to appear as part of the school syllabus.

He also wrote the popular 1970s television series Budgie and Worzel Gummidge, starring Jon Pertwee and Una Stubbs - returning to pen Worzel Gummidge Down Under in the 1980s.

Waterhouse's work - including the text book Waterhouse on Newspaper Style - brought him a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1991 he became a CBE.

His 14th novel, Soho, was published in 2001.

He was divorced twice and leaves two children.

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