Obituary: Ben Perrick

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The Independent Culture
NO PUBLICIST was ever more good-natured than Ben Perrick, whose unobsequious attentiveness to others endeared him to colleagues, contacts and the two most formidable women in his life.

Eve Perrick, his wife, was a columnist for The Daily Express and The Daily Mail and was famed for her trenchant comments; they were married from 1939 until her death in 1995. Christina Foyle, doyenne of women booksellers until her death last month, employed "Perrick" (as she invariably addressed him) as publicist for Foyle's bookshop from the early 1930s until the mid-1990s, with brief breaks when he worked for The Studio magazine or was in the Army.

The son of a barber's assistant in the City, Perrick was born in 1908. Before joining Foyle's publicity department he worked for Selfridge's, on the strength of a 200-word panegyric of that store written in 10 minutes, and for Harrod's. At Foyle's, the Charing Cross Road bookshop, he soon became involved in the Foyle's literary luncheons inaugurated shortly before his arrival and, for six decades, played a key role in their organisation.

He enjoyed negotiating with the celebrities who addressed them, using his expertise to place stories in the media and mastering the logistics of seating hundreds of mostly paying, mostly female, guests. Above all, he liked working with Christina Foyle. Their entrepreneurial skills promoted the longest-running ever publicity event for books and one particular shop.

Not that crises were unknown. Once Dame Sybil Thorndike cried off with a broken leg. Christina commanded, "Try Charlie Chaplin." Perrick found the great man was in London, and booked him. Another time, Ogden Nash fell ill on the morning of the lunch. At the reception Paul Gallico was invited to become chief speaker. I watched him, seated in the bar, compose an address in Nash-style verse, afterwards brilliantly delivered. I suspect that Gallico was Perrick's inspired choice.

Perrick publicised all Foyle's activities - book clubs, art gallery, publishing. In 1948, when I was working for Foyle's, sales staff were much aware of him; he was "Mr Perrick" to us. Frequently a small typhoon tracked through the department where I worked - a shortish man, with wiry hair, swept in, fired questions about particular books, smiled genially, swept out. He was never grumpy or discourteous but he needed quick, convincing answers.

Decades later I described Perrick, in Publishing News, as a youthful 75, with sparkling eyes, a thick matting of hair, and a waistline the envy of many publicity men half his age. Although overdue for retirement, he hung on. His hobby was his work. He didn't have a garden or play any sport, although he read avidly and enjoyed travel. But he adored Foyle's and its environs, especially the Gay Hussar restaurant where he met journalists and politicians.

Ben Perrick loved people, not least his family - he is survived by his daughter, Penny, a journalist.

r's publicist: born London 24 October 1908; married 1939 (one daughter); died London 11 July 1999.

Benjamin Perrick, bookselle