OBITUARY : Christopher Falkus
Saturday 01 April 1995
He was born in 1940, the twin son of the naturalist Hugh Falkus; neither Christopher nor his brother had an easy upbringing. Their mother was left to feed, clothe and educate her children on meagre resources. Despite, or perhaps partly because of this, the boys showed outstanding aptitude - both intellectual and physical. They went first to the Marist convent in Paignton and then to St Boniface's College, Plymouth. Christopher then went to University College, London, where he was awarded an outstanding First Class history degree and also won the Derby Prize. After a year as a BBC trainee and a period working for the children's partwork Knowledge, he emigrated to Australia as a Lecturer in Modern History at Queensland University. In Australia he blossomed - as teacher, researcher, tennis and squash player and cricketer. He also became an enthusiastic and knowledgeable naturalist.
On his return to England in 1968 he forsook academia (in which his brother was to flourish) for the dodgier world of London publishing, first at the British Printing Corporation, where he edited historical partworks. In 1970 he was approached by George Weidenfeld to join his firm, as Publisher of the Art and Illustrated list. Shortly after, he became joint managing director with Alan Miles.
The years he spent with Weidenfeld were testing ones for an irreverent and inexperienced young historian. In 1973, when the firm's fortunes were at a low ebb, he thought up the "Kings and Queens" series with Book Club Associates and persuaded Antonia Fraser to edit it. He wrote the volume on Charles II and his wife Gila wrote the one on Queen Anne. The success of this major package of mainly excellent royal biographies in large part restored the Weidenfeld fortunes. Other publishing successes were to follow. Falkus's love of sport brought the revival of the Arthur Barker imprint, his historical expertise introduced a new generation of historians to the list. Amongst authors with whom he worked closely were most members of the Pakenham family, Olivia Manning, A.J.P. Taylor and Kevin Keegan, as well as Morecambe and Wise. His own tastes were eclectic and ranged from wild life and the history of ideas to P.G. Wodehouse and Arsenal.
The managerial problems at Weidenfeld were not dispelled by a healthier balance-sheet. Lines of command were obscured; and strong, talented personalities distorted good management. Falkus taught himself how to manage other people and draw the best from them, by encouragement, by enabling other voices to be heard, by a willingness to let others take the limelight, which - though not always appreciated at the time - led to a period of harmonious relationships and good publishing. He was particularly adept at encouraging younger colleagues and creating opportunities for them.
His departure in 1980 for Associated Book Publishers, where he became chairman of the General Books Group, and his eventual return to Weidenfeld after a brief but unhappy experience of working with Robert Maxwell, were years of increasing stress in his professional life, and the strain eventually told on his health. He refused to slow down or reduce his availability to colleagues and authors. At the end of 1991 he had a heart attack which was not diagnosed until January 1992. In May that year he retired. Then he enjoyed spending time with his family, playing the piano, talking. Friends and colleagues such as John Cleese and John Potter consulted him, and with formidable determination and energy he fought his ill-health to build a successful new career as a freelance writer and editor.
He was completing a history of everyday life in Imperial China on the day of his death.
Christopher Hugh Falkus, publisher: born 13 January 1940; managing director, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1970-79, publishing director 1989-92; chairman, Methuen General 1980-88; married 1965 Margaret Mathias (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1976), 1977 Gila Curtis (one son, one daughter); died London 29 March 1995.
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 4 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
- 5 Cristiano Ronaldo storms out of interview after being asked about possible sale of Manchester United target Sergio Ramos
Hilary Swank: Million Dollar Baby star says she turns down roles to care for elderly father
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Bastrop: The Texas town where many fear a large military training exercise will be used by President Obama to take their guns and impose martial law
Bakery sends 'horrific' version of Frozen-themed birthday cake to unsuspecting customer
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...
£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A rare and exciting opportunity for a Practice...