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Richard Gordon

BMJ 2017; 358 doi: (Published 25 August 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;358:j3997
  1. Joanna Lyall
  1. London
  1. joannalyall50{at}

Anaesthetist who swapped medicine for a career as a writer

Richard Gordon, the highly successful author of the Doctor in the House novels who has died aged 95, once said that he learnt to write as an assistant editor on The BMJ, where he was put in charge of obituaries. “It taught me how to write convincing fiction, and all went well until one day I killed off a doctor of divinity, so shortly after I found myself going to sea,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs in 1971.

In an interview with LBC radio in 1986 he joked about the conventions of obituary writing at the time. “We had a sort of code—if we put ‘he suffered fools badly’ he was the rudest man in miles. Hibernian temperament—he drank a lot. Man with problems—he drank alone.”

Bestselling novelist

Doctor in the House, his first novel, which was published in 1952, introduced the character of Sir Lancelot Spratt, the irascible chief surgeon—“S for spleen, P for prostate, R for rump, A for apoplexy.” It became a bestseller and was made into a film two years later, starring Dirk Bogarde, Kenneth More, and James …

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