Italian author Camilleri, creator of 'Inspector Montalbano', dies

The late Italian author Andrea Camilleri

Italian author Andrea Camilleri, who earned worldwide acclaim for his series of 30-odd whodunnits starring inspector Salvo Montalbano in the fictitious Sicilian city of Vigata, died Wednesday aged 93, a Rome hospital said.

Born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, Camilleri saw his works turned into a TV series in 1999 that was picked up in Britain, the United States and Australia.

Camilleri said he owed a "huge debt" to Belgian writer Georges Simenon's detective Jules Maigret, but Montalbano takes his name from Catalan novelist Manuel Vazquez Montalban, creator of gastronome detective Pepe Carvalho.

Also a theatre and television director and scriptwriter, Camilleri published his first Montalbano novel "The Shape of Water" in 1994 when he was 69 years old.

"I love him and I hate him. I owe him practically everything, he opened the door for the other books," Camilleri told Italy's La Stampa newspaper.

"But he's invasive, pretentious, unpleasant and when I encounter a problem, I can see him turning up telling me 'I'd do it like this'," said the writer known for his overflowing ashtrays.

Camilleri died Wednesday after a period in intensive care.

"It is with profound sadness that we announce that at 8.20am.... the writer Andrea Camilleri died. His condition, which remained critical over the past few days, worsened in the last hours, compromising his vital functions," the hospital said.

It said the funeral would be private, as per the family's wishes.

"Goodbye to Andrea Camilleri, father of Montalbano and tireless narrator of his native Sicily," Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said on Twitter.

Fellow deputy prime minister Luigi di Maio said it was "Sad news for Sicily, which loses a son, and for Italy.

"We will miss you."

Camilleri has sold some 20 million books in Italy, and his Montalbano novels have been translated into about 30 languages.

The writer was known for often mixing Sicilian dialect with standard Italian.

"Let's say I invent one percent of the words but the rest comes from the dialect of Sicilian farmers or workers," Camilleri told AFP in an interview.

Camilleri, who published his first novel aged 57, also had a long career in moviemaking and radio.

"I am blind, but losing my sight made all my other senses come back to life," he said in 2017.

"They have come to the rescue. My memory has improved, and I remember more things than before with great lucidity, and I still write."