Legendary literary agent Deborah Rogers dies

 

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The Independent Culture

Deborah Rogers, the “legendary” literary agent to some of the most celebrated authors Britain has produced in the past 50 years, has died.

A statement from Rogers, Coleridge and White (RCW) confirmed the sudden death from a suspected heart attack of their “beloved colleague” who worked with writers from William Boyd and Salman Rushdie to Philip Roth, AS Byatt and Hanif Kureishi.

She received the lifetime achievement award at The London Book Fair last month, the first agent to be awarded the honour. It recognised Ms Rogers, who was in her 70s, was not only tireless on behalf of her authors but was “widely recognised as a force for good in publishing”.

RCW said: “She was an inspiration: a peerless agent, a wonderful friend and greatly loved by colleagues, authors and friends alike. Her loss on a professional and personal level will be deeply felt and hard to bear.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, who won the Booker Prize for his novel The Remains of the Day, told The Bookseller: “I’m groping for consolations in the face of this loss, but one of them is that she departed absolutely at the top of her game, knowing no decline. In the last few months, she was sharper, wiser, more energetic than at any time in the 34 years I’ve known her.”

Another of her writers, Ian McEwan, said to at the time of the award that she demonstrated “infinite care, kindness, hospitality, patience, fierce loyalty, very sound critical judgement and good taste”. He added she had a “generous, richly creative, hugely well-read and warm hearted spirit”.

Dame Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House UK, said Ms Rogers was a “legendary agent who has made an unsurpassed contribution to a thriving publishing business”.

The publishing world took to social networks to express their sadness about Ms Rogers’ death. Author Ben Schott wrote on Twitter: “Tragic to hear about the death of Deborah Rogers – a peerless agent who personified the elegant, old school of agenting.” Novelist Philip Hensher called her a “wonderful woman,” adding: “I owe so much to her”.

Ms Rogers was an agent all her professional life. She set up Deborah Rogers Ltd in 1967, and soon after was joined by Pat White. Two decades later the pair, and Gill Coleridge, set up RCW.

On receiving the lifetime achievement award she said: “Having always believed that one fo the greatest gifts life can offer is to be blessed with work that brings daily excitement, delight and satisfaction, and to have basked in that myself, it hardly seems fair to be given an award for what has been a lifetime of such pleasure.”

She was a past president of the Association of Author’s Agents and the management committee of the Man Booker Prize.

David Roche, non-executive chair at The London Book Fair called Ms Rogers “one of a kind”.

He added: “Her talent for identifying new writers, dedication to her authors and her outstanding contribution to the world of books have gained her respect across the literary world.”

In its statement, RCW said: “Deborah has created a remarkable company which will endure and flourish in the way she would have wished. Our love and thoughts are with her family.”

She died from a suspected heart attack on Wednesday and is survived by her husband, composer Michael Berkeley, their daughter Jessica and grandson Nathaniel.

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