In 1958 he was hired by RAI’s radio division, then switched to the television side, directing and adapting scripts for various programs. In 1974 he began teaching theater at the National Academy, a post he held for more than 20 years.
He had begun writing novels by this point, although the first, “The Way Things Go,” written in the late 1960s, wasn’t published until 1978. Several other novels in various genres followed, though none got much attention — Mr. Camilleri told The Wall Street Journal in 1998 that his first review was in an Italian-language newspaper in Croatia. The best known of the pre-Montalbano books was “Hunting Season,” a comic historical novel published in 1992. He was working on another, which would eventually be called “The Brewer of Preston,” when he got stuck and tried a detective tale.
The Montalbano books are known not just for their distinctive inspector, but for a colorful array of underlings and other recurring characters. They have also become known for their occasional commentary on Italy’s leaders and policies. Mr. Camilleri was not a fan of Silvio Berlusconi, the longtime prime minister, and his displeasure, which he voiced in a series of essays, could also be detected in the books, setting the series apart from other crime series that try to stay detached from current events.
“In my books,” he told The Guardian in 2012, “I deliberately decided to smuggle into a detective novel a critical commentary on my times.”
More recently, he had been outspoken about Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right interior minister, and his anti-immigration positions. An episode of the TV show in February that included a pro-immigrant message brought a flurry of criticism from Salvini supporters.
“Salvini reminds me of a member of the Fascist regime,” Mr. Camilleri told The Guardian in the aftermath.
Mr. Camilleri is survived by his wife, Rosetta Dello Siesto, whom he married in 1957, three daughters, four grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Mr. Camilleri prepared years ago for the end of the Montalbano series.
“I finished him off five years ago,” he said in 2012. “That’s to say, the final novel in the series of Montalbano is already written and deposited at the publishing house. When I get fed up with him or am not able to write any more, I’ll tell the publisher: Publish that book.”
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