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Prolific crime novelist,who created the humble Indian police inspector in Mumbai,dies of heart failure at 84

HRF Keating,crime writer who created Inspector Ghote,dies

Written by New York Times | New York |
April 1, 2011 1:24:32 am

HRF Keating,the prolific British crime novelist who created Ganesh Ghote,the humble Indian police inspector in Bombay,died on Sunday in London. He was 84.

The cause was heart failure,his wife,Sheila Mitchell,said in an e-mail.

Keating’s literary life was saturated in crime. He wrote more than 40 books of crime fiction,he reviewed crime fiction for The Times of London,and he wrote nonfiction about crime,including a character study of Sherlock Holmes,a guide to writing crime fiction and a list,accompanied by essays,of what he considered the 100 greatest crime novels.

More than 20 of his novels featured Inspector Ghote (pronounced GO-tay),a man of peculiar charm in detectivedom. Shy and self-questioning and benignly disposed toward humankind,Ghote is not especially tough or especially insightful in the ways of the criminal mind. He is,however,possessed of unassailable integrity,and he’s one of those stick-to-it guys who just can’t be put off the case.

The Inspector Ghote novels were frequently praised for their accurate portrayal of life in Mumbai,though Keating wrote several of them before he had ever visited India.

In the opening pages of the first Ghote novel,“The Perfect Murder” (1964),in which Inspector Ghote investigates the killing of the indispensible secretary of a wealthy business tycoon,it is revealed casually that the victim’s name was Perfect. The tycoon is “a massy,rolling mountain of a man” and “a man with vast influence in the highest quarters.”

“The inspector swallowed nervously,” Keating wrote of Ghote’s first meeting with the tycoon. “He had a feeling that he ought not to let such a person tread all over him,otherwise his chances of ever applying the proper procedure would be slight.”

Keating,who wore a flowing beard,was known for a gentle,gurulike manner.

“He was famous in England for being the kindest,sweetest person in the mystery community,” said Otto Penzler,founder of the Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan and an old friend of Keating’s. “He carried himself like a Buddhist monk almost.”

Keating was an old-fashioned crime writer,Penzler said,in the sense that he planted clues in his books and allowed the reader to try to figure out the mystery along with the detective.

Henry Reymond Fitzwalter Keating,known to friends as Harry,was born in St. Leonards-on-Sea,Sussex,England,on October 31,1926. His father was a school headmaster,and family lore has it that he gave his son his formidable name to foreshadow his becoming a writer,thinking the initials would look impressive on the spine of a book.BRUCE WEBER

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