Heritage  |  Aug 11, 2017

Dr Gordon Ostlere, 1921-2017

Dr Gordon Ostlere, also known as the novelist Dr Richard Gordon, died peacefully earlier in the morning of 11 August 2017, aged 95.

Michael Shaw, his agent for many years at Curtis Brown, has written the following eulogy.

Gordon Ostlere will be best remembered for his hugely entertaining, witty series of Doctor books beginning with Doctor In The House, which established  the immortal characters of Dr Sparrow and Sir Lancelot Spratt (played by Dirk Bogarde and James Robertson Justice respectively in the film versions of Doctor In The House & Doctor At Sea ).  This series of novels was an enormous success throughout the sixties and seventies, particularly in their Penguin paperback versions and they sold all round the world in translation. Indeed, Sir Lancelot Spratt has entered into folk memory, even being quoted by The Times Leader writer. The critical wit of the early novels is still relevant today in an analysis of the workings of the NHS.

Richard Gordon also wrote about the history of medicine and biography, including an interesting biography of Florence Nightingale, as well as plays and screenplays for film and TV. And, of course, he wrote about his great love, cricket. He enjoyed long, leisurely visits to Lords, the gossip and the atmosphere of a proper 5-day Test Match as much as he relished The Garrick Club and, above all, the conversation and challenges of the Punch table. He wrote a good deal for Punch in its halcyon days and found it buoyed both his intellect and spirits.

He was a great admirer of  the style and skill of P G Woodhouse's writing. He met "Plum" several times when he was in the States. He treasured Woodhouse's comments about his own writing. It meant a great deal to him.  He was re-reading some of the short stories just before he died.

Gordon Ostlere was, of course a trained anaesthetist - he wrote several textbooks for students of anaesthetics - and practised until he gave up medicine for full-time writing in 1952. He kept up his professional reading. For such a successful, clever man, he was surprisingly shy, although unfailingly courteous and prepared to play the part if he had to. His well-known
"anatomical" refusal to Eamonn Andrews  to take part in This Is Your Life  is as
typical of the man as was his subsequent, reluctant agreement to do a recorded version. He was a down to earth, loyal, private, family man.

As a doctor he knew all about mortality. I remember he told me, at least 25 years ago, that he had but a few months to live. Yet that was long enough for medical advances, incrementally and regularly, to continue to prolong his life.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Mary (known as Jo) who was also an
anaesthetist, and two sons and two daughters of whom two are medical - a son Simon, who is a radiologist and a daughter Lucy, a dermatologist. One of his 9 grandchildren has also recently qualified as a doctor.