Obituary: Shirley Russell

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The Independent Online
Shirley Christine Russell, literary agent: born 13 January 1934; director, Rupert Crew Literary Agency, 1965- 94; died London 24 September 1994.

SHIRLEY RUSSELL joined the Rupert Crew literary agency in London, in July 1950, straight from school. She was just 16, with a passion for reading and for books. She became immersed in the fiction area of the agency, which she preferred, working first as Kathleen Crew's assistant, and latterly as an agent in her own right, building her client list and her publishing contacts worldwide, both in the magazine and book publishing fields. Barbara Cartland led her list of authors, and among the writers she launched are Judy Gardiner, Lucy Gordon, and Dinah Lampitt. It was to prove a lifetime devotion, and her agency skills and ability to recognise talent served her writers, and their publishers, well.

The period which gave Russell the greatest pleasure was probably the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. These were the halcyon days when innumerable magazines were published, dedicated to the fiction genre: Argosy with its monthly beanfeast of short fiction, John Bull, a weekly journal, in which authors of the calibre of Alistair Maclean, Hammond Innes and Ian Fleming were featured, Everybody's, Strand, Courier, and others long since defunct provided regular and rewarding fiction opportunities, as did the women's weekly and monthly journals of the time.

Times changed and Russell changed with them, always conscious of the market's needs, guiding and nurturing new and existing talent to meet them. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her authors were inspired by her. Russell had a warm and ebullient personality, a tinkling, instantly recognisable, laugh. She had a large circle of friends, and maintained strong friendships. She loved cats, and always shared her home with at least two, as well as a vast collection of the ornamental variety. Apart from reading, for leisure as well as for business, she was a devotee of the ballet and theatre, and music was a joyous form of relaxation for her.

She refused to permit her illness to diminish her dedication to her authors and their interests. Until the last month, she worked daily at her office. Shirley Russelland I worked together for over 40 years, and there was a bond forged between us that only such a long association can solder.

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