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.