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Bill Granger

Journalist and crime novelist who famously prefigured death of Lord Mountbatten

Bill Granger, who has died aged 70, was a Chicago journalist and the author of 28 books, mostly crime novels and thrillers, the first of which uncannily prefigured the assassination of Lord Mountbatten by the Provisional IRA in 1979.

Granger's debut as a novelist, The November Man, a spy thriller, attracted international attention because its plot, based on a terrorist conspiracy to assassinate a relative of the Queen by blowing up a boat, bore remarkable parallels with the Mountbatten assassination, which occurred only weeks after the book appeared.

"We got calls from all over the world," his wife recalled. At the time, Granger made it clear that he had no time for the extremists on either side of the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland. Although he dismissed IRA terrorists as "cowards" and "punks", he declared that British policy in the province was "racist" and that Ireland ought to be united.

Granger wrote a series of a dozen sequels to The November Man, starring the main character, Devereaux, a shadowy American spy often likened to George Smiley and James Bond. He also wrote a series of police procedurals, including his favourite, Public Murders, for which he won the Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for the best original paperback mystery novel of 1981.

All his novels exuded a strong whiff of Chicago, with recognisable city settings and colourful characters with names like Slim Dingo, Tony Rolls and Jesus X Mohammed.

William F Granger was born on June 1, 1941 in Chicago and educated at St Ambrose Roman Catholic school. At DePaul University he edited the student newspaper, and graduated in English in 1963. He served in the US army for two years before joining the Chicago Tribune as a reporter.

In 1969 he switched to the rival Chicago Sun-Times, where he made his journalistic name by sequestering a veteran of the Vietnam War's notorious My Lai massacre in a local hotel and wringing an exclusive story from him every day for a week.

In 1971 he took leave of absence to cover the worsening sectarian violence in Northern Ireland for Newsday, The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times.

Granger returned to cover suburban Chicago and became the television critic of the Sun-Times before losing his job when the paper merged with the Chicago Daily News in 1978. He reinvented himself as an author, and by 1983 had written eight books.

By the early Nineties he had completed another 20. "Fear is a great motivator," he said. "I have to pay the mortgage." His prolific output stopped only after a stroke in 2000. Bill Granger, who died on April 22, is survived by his wife, Lori, and their son.

Sunday Independent