How We Met: Caradoc King & Philip Pullman

Caradoc King, 64

Head of the literary agency AP Watt, King is agent to writers including Graham Swift, Tony Parsons and Philip Pullman, whom he has represented for 35 years. He lives in London with his partner

We met on the first day of the autumn term at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1965. He was a tall boy, with long hair, and damn good-looking, like a rock star to be. We were two provincial boys who didn't know anyone, so we agreed to meet for a drink in the college bar.

He spent a lot of his time playing the guitar, painting pictures and writing; when we were revising for finals he was brooding over his first novel. Philip was into rock – JJ Cale particularly – while I was more into classic music. Did we get stoned the whole time? The one thing about Oxford from 1965 -1968 was that we hit that cusp period when it was pretty straight; the 1960s didn't really start until 1968, though we did have a puff or two.

Once, we were invited to dinner by the college rector, as a couple of bright likely lads, along with a distinguished guest – JRR Tolkien. Looking back, it was an extraordinary encounter: a young undergraduate who would become the greatest fantasy writer of his generation, sitting in the presence of this revered author of The Lord of the Rings.

After graduation, I recall a fantastic road trip we went on after one Christmas, from Gloucestershire to Land's End, for New Year's Eve. We hung out in pubs, got a bit pissed and on New Year's night, we slept in the back of my van on an incredibly cold night, waking up to an incredible Cornish sunrise.

I went into publishing, while Philip worked part-time, determined to become a writer. When, in 1976, I joined AP Watt as an agent, he offered me his first adult fantasy, Galatea, and we have been professionally connected ever since.

It's a pleasure to combine admiration with friendship. He might have said, at some point, I've written novels for you for 20 years, why do I still have to do my day job? But we've never clashed; he's my oldest friend. He tells rattling good yarns, but doesn't overintellectualise what he does; the story always comes first.

These days he's regarded as this profound and visionary figure, but he's also the same man I remember when I first met him: he's just a lot of fun.

Philip Pullman, 64

An award-winning, bestselling author, Pullman is best known for his acclaimed trilogy of children's fantasy books, 'His Dark Materials'. He lives with his wife in Oxford

Ten of us were reading English at Exeter College, Oxford, in 1965 and we were summoned to a meeting with our new tutor on the second day of term. We were all fresh out of school, but Caradoc, who was the only one wearing a suit, struck me as being much more grown-up; he had the air of a man of the world. He seemed to already know who to go to at college to get this or that concession.

He was a boss already, a natural leader, directing plays for the college drama society. In the third year, we shared a cottage. At that time you weren't allowed to live in unapproved digs, but Caradoc decided he wanted to live in style in the country, so we found a cottage to rent and Caradoc put the case to the rector that we were victims of unhappy family circumstances, and persuaded him to let us live there. We lived in a sort of mock old club man's style. We pretended to be old buffers sitting in our club, had sherry before dinner and took turns to cook.

We were even invited by the rector to dinner, with his wife and their guest of honour, JRR Tolkien. He turned to our housemate, Richard, and said, "Tell me, young man, how are they pronouncing Anglo Saxon these days?" Richard hadn't a clue, so he turned to Caradoc and said, "Now then young man, did you enjoy Lord of the Rings?" and he said, "No, I haven't read it." That was the end of Tolkien's conversation for the dinner.

Caradoc worked like blazes, and got a much better degree; I went to two lectures and found them so boring I never wanted to go to another. After university, Caradoc went to a job in publishing – he knew what he wanted to do; I had no idea. I got a third-class degree and drifted to London to sleep on people's floors.

In 1976, I had an adult book due to be published and Caradoc represented me. I was so embarrassed to go to him with such a tiny advance. Since then, it's been an easy relationship; he has my full trust.

While we're close, we do disagree on things: you could call me a humanist, while Caradoc is a Catholic, so we've argued about the excessive wealth of the church, and its displays of symbolism. Caradoc is one for ceremony; I'm not.

We see each other regularly, meeting for dinner in London, but we're both middle-aged and slow now – though he's changed a lot less than I have. He's kept his hair, I envy him that, and he keeps trim with Canadian Air Force exercises. I'm just raddled and wrinkled now.

Caradoc King's memoir, 'Problem Child', (Simon & Schuster, £16.99) is out now

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before