Seventeen Detection Club colleagues join together to create a surprise 80th birthday tribute to H.R.F. Keating that may be the most unusual festschrift ever assembled.
Practically every contributor has chosen to memorialize a particular aspect of Inspector Ghote’s creator. Lionel Davidson focuses on his birthday celebration, Tim Heald his beard, Liza Cody his fascination with Hindu mythology, Catherine Aird a second-hand encounter with Keating in the south of France, editor Lovesey his hobby of “popping round to the post,” Len Deighton (in his first short story in 30 years) his passion for Sherlock Holmes. Robert Barnard takes off from Keating’s dislike of airports; Jonathan Gash sets a romantic triangle on a ship out of Bombay; June Thomson inscribes a dying message inspired by Keating; P.D. James traces the impact of a Ghote novel on a murder at school; and James Melville recalls Keating’s charlady/sleuth Emma Craggs. Thinly disguised versions of Keating are suspects in the stories of Reginald Hill, Colin Dexter and Michael Z. Lewin. In honor of Keating’s verse novel Jack the Lady Killer, Simon Brett supplies a short story in verse. Andrew Taylor and Michael Hartland venture further afield before Sheila Keating concludes the volume with a reprint of her husband’s “Arkady Nikolaivich.”
Though many of the contributions are slight, foolish and unlikely to be reprinted, their kaleidoscopic portrait shows why Keating is worth such an affectionate celebration.