The making of HRF Keating

What makes a writer? How do skill, circumstances, and determination come together in a lifetime of shaping stories?

I’ve met a lot of fine writers, during my 27 years as a published author. One I am most grateful to have called a friend was H. R. F. Keating.

I met Harry and his wife Sheila in 1995, at a Scottsdale conference put together by our mutual friend Barbara Peters.  AZ Goes Classic (there was a book of the papers we presented, currently out of print, alas) was an amazing get together, where I met Mike Connelly, Harry Keating, Val McDermid—people I love and have worked with ever since.

Harry died nine years ago. I wrote a post about missing him, and about his amazing influence in both fiction and nonfiction, and about how I hate that he was never named Grand Master by MWA (the post, with a very brief reading list, is here). If you’ve never met his creations—Inspector Ghote, perhaps, or “Hard Detective” Harriet Martens, or perhaps his analyses of Golden Age Crime—please look out for him. As I say in that post:

His work, as his  person, is characterized by a gentle eccentricity and humor with an enduring  interest in the mystery as morality story.  However, as with the best  English crime fiction, his willingness to face the stark realities of the  murders he writes about means that even his more “cosy” books (and could a  title such as  Mrs. Craggs: Crimes Cleaned Up be seen as  anything but cosy?) often contain grim touches.  The Detective series  go further, into the frankly gritty, and he has ventured into the realm of  the thriller (The Dog It Was That Died) and the macabre (a number of  his short stories.)

Now his wife, whom I equally adore, has written a biography of Harry.

Some of you know Sheila Mitchell from various conferences, or from her audio books, or from performances you’ve seen (she toured a one-woman play about Dorothy L. Sayers that played at several conferences) but here, she offers a unique insider’s view of one of the most influential writers of the late 20th century.  It’s charming, it’s comprehensive, and it’s clear-eyed when it comes to the state of publishing in the 21st century.

I highly recommend that you order a copy from your local Indie, for a look through a partner-wife’s eyes at the making of a great writer and an even greater human being: here.


  1. Robert Pringle on September 29, 2020 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for the introduction.

    • Laurie King on September 29, 2020 at 8:33 pm

      Hope you enjoy Harry’s books!

  2. paul quartey on September 30, 2020 at 2:54 pm

    Ms Ķing,
    Thank you for ŕeminding me to read, again, Mr Keating’s books. They, especially the Inspector Ghote series, have given me so much pleasure over the past four decades.
    I can understand why you shared a bond, for you both set out your inner understanding of the human condition, on a canvas that was different to your backgrounds. With characters that share your firm moral code.
    Again, thank you for this song.
    Warmest regards

    • Laurie King on September 30, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      Hi Paul–yes, Harry was such a solid, gentle man, and it comes out in his books.

  3. Terry Lyons on October 19, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    Hi I believe The Beekeeper’s Apprentice was written by my Grandmother Dorothy Hilde Thompsett nee Moore called Doris who lived many years at Meadowbrook, Plitdown, Sussex, England, U.K Her father was a captain of a merchant ship that traveled mostly in the souther hemisphere and Asia. His ship commodore by the British was sunk by the German’s during the WW1. The trunk was her father ‘s. Her brother James Moore, though in the U.S.A. he used a alias,
    had taken it without her permission, had second thoughts and mailed it to you before he went to jail – his words not mine. The bathrobe was her father’s Captain william Moore. My grandfather, Jack Thompsett, was with British Intelligence in the middle east in the early 1920’s and my grandmother told he helped her with the information about Palestine. She had three children, two who have passed away, my mom Irene Lyons and my aunt Beryl McCafferty, and one son Donald Thompsett who is still with us in England. Perhaps the only proof I will be able to give you is the story told by grandmother, grandfather and great uncle over 52 years ago. Terr Lyons ph 780 461-7730

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:44 am

      Ah, mystery solved.

  4. Mark Berryman on December 22, 2020 at 11:41 am

    How strange.
    I recently started reading HRF keating again
    And your books.
    And I can see a similar strength in both
    Also your loki books..
    Just so good to find that thread of honesty ( wrong word, but right meaning through both authors

    • Laurie King on May 5, 2021 at 12:37 am

      Not sure about Loki books, but it’s lovely to be compared to Harry Keating.

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