Keith Waterhouse (Keith Spencer Waterhouse) Biography
(1929– ), (Keith Spencer Waterhouse), métier, There Is a Happy Land, Billy Liar
British novelist, playwright, and journalist, born in Leeds, educated at Osmondthorpe Council School. During the Second World War he served in the Royal Air Force. A prolific and seemingly effortless craftsman, mordant farce is his métier. His first novel, There Is a Happy Land (1957), typifies his irreverent response to life; a boy plays at being blind, drunk, or maimed, mimics all elders, and delights in impudence or in embarrassing adults. He is best known for Billy Liar (1959), which he successfully adapted for the stage and the cinema; typically anarchic and fantastical, it is simultaneously a paean to and an attack on parochial England. It was followed by a sequel, Billy Liar on the Moon (1975). In subsequent novels, The Bucket Shop (1968), Office Life (1978), and Maggie Muggins (1981), London is the dominant milieu, a world of anonymity where people are drifters, and where redundancy and alcoholism are tests of survival. More recently he has published Unsweet Charity (1992). Recognized as an authority on correct usage, he was a member of the Kingman Committee on the Teaching of the English Language, and is the author of influential books on newspaper style, including Waterhouse on Newspaper Style (1989), and English Our English (1991), a lively book on correct usage. Sharon and Tracy and the Rest (1992) is a collection of his columns for the Daily Mail. City Lights: A Street Life (1994) and Streets Ahead (1995) are autobiographies.