O'Keeffe, Timothy (1926–94), publisher and editor, was born 27 September 1926 in Kinsale, Co. Cork, son of Michael O'Keeffe, hospital porter, formerly of Middlesex, England, and Margaret O'Keeffe (née Sheehan) of Kinsale. He moved to England at an early age and was educated at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He moved to London and was employed at the Hutchinson publishing house, where he was trained as an editor by Sir Robert Lusty and edited the new authors list. With Hutchinson, he established a reputation as one of the best editors in London. In 1959 he was appointed editorial director of a small publishing house, MacGibbon & Kee, of which Robert Kee (qv) was one of the founders. He edited one book there under his own name, Alienation (1960), a collection of essays and stories by young writers. His first great coup there was to republish in 1960 the comic masterpiece by Flann O'Brien (qv), At Swim-two-birds, which had first been printed in 1939 but had had many copies destroyed in the Blitz. This revitalized O'Brien's career and O'Keeffe encouraged him to write and publish more work. O'Keeffe subsequently published O'Brien's novels The hard life (1961) and The third policeman (1967), and an anthology of O'Brien's journalism, The best of Myles (1968); he also edited Myles: portraits of Brian O'Nolan (1973).
In the late 1960s when MacGibbon & Kee was taken over by the Granada group, O'Keeffe was let go and went on to form his own publishing house, Martin Brian & O'Keeffe, with Martin Greene, another editor from MacGibbon & Kee, and Brian Rooney, a gifted typographer. That small, essentially bohemian, enterprise included Patrick Kavanagh's (qv) memoir The green fool (1971) on its first list and later published some of Kavanagh's poetry, including his long poem ‘Lough Derg’. O'Keeffe published the collected poems of Hugh MacDiarmid and held a celebrated party launch under the walls of Dunsany Castle, Co. Meath, to mark the publication (1974) of the collected poems of Francis Ledwidge (qv). Running the firm from his home in Blackheath, London, he gained a reputation for publishing authors not renowned for their ease of manner. He published Colin MacInnes's study of bisexuality, Loving them both (1973), and the novel by Francis Stuart (qv), Black list, section H (1971), which was regarded with some suspicion. He also published books by such diverse authors as the Canadian Paul Potts and the Libyan Redwan Abushwesha, and the political theories of Muammar Qaddafi. Through it all, his books retained high standards of creative excellence and impeccable production, although the risks that his company took in their publications courted, alternatively, admiration for their independence or ridicule for their obscurity. Always dapper in appearance, he enjoyed pubs and conversation, which enabled him to deal more easily with some of the writers whose work he edited and published. He suffered a stroke in 1992 and died 11 January 1994.
He and his wife Mimi, a school headmistress, had three sons and a daughter.