'I wondered what I personally had done which, having done it, I could write about. I discovered that I had done nothing at all except live for twenty-two consecutive years.' Journalist and author Keith Waterhouse was well known as a columnist, as the writer of the play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, and for his novel Billy Liar, published in 1959 when the author was thirty. But discovered in his archives, which were acquired by the British Library in 2012, was a typescript for Waterhouse's first full-length work which had never been published, a humorous autobiography entitled How to Live to Be 22. Written during the early years of his career, as a reporter for the Yorkshire Evening Post, the book contains the dreams, doubts, desires and ambitions of a young man in post-war Leeds trying to make his way as a writer. A torrent of ideas, sometimes bordering on a rant but always humorous and self-deprecating, How to Live to Be 22 contains many of the themes that Waterhouse would later develop in Billy Liar: fantasies of being the leader of imaginary worlds, and even Prime Minister; early experiences with women; and an obsession with grammar.
With great confidence and prescience he declares that he will have, 'always one book or play on the go like people who always have the kettle on the gas,' and the neon lights that lit his name up in the clouds will be 'bigger and brighter than before.' For all fans of Keith Waterhouse, this book will be an exciting discovery and a fascinating insight into the DNA of a gifted writer.