Obituary Note: Simon King; Vanessa Lafaye

Publisher Simon King, formerly of William Collins and Random House, died March 1, the Bookseller reported. He was 80. King, who began his career in Germany at the Catholic publisher Herder in 1958, spent a decade working as an agent before joining Collins (now HarperCollins) as an editor in 1970, then "rose through the ranks from editor to publisher in a career there spanning 20 years." In 1991, he was hired by Gail Rebuck and Simon Master to take charge of Century, Arrow and Hutchinson at Random House. He retired in 1999.

Dan Franklin, who worked with King at Collins, called him "an inspirational boss, whose gentle manner disguised a steely will--a necessary attribute in the later days of his Collins career when a new breed of manager arrived more interested in profit margins than literary excellence."

Stuart Proffitt of Penguin Press, who also worked under him at Collins, described King as an "extraordinarily warm and kind person, knew where to draw the lines, believed in the power of books and writing, and was deeply encouraging to young editors like me."

Kate Parkin, who worked with King both at HarperCollins and at Random House, said he "saw his role as enabling the teams he ran to publish to the best of their ability, believing--as he often said--that 'profit is a consequence of good publishing.' A quiet man, he commanded fierce loyalty from those of us fortunate enough to have worked for him.... I, and many others in the industry, owe him a great deal."


Novelist Vanessa Lafaye, who had worked as an editor for Oxford University Press in the 1990s, died February 28, a week after her latest book deal was announced with HarperCollins, the Bookseller reported. She was 54. Lafaye wrote two acclaimed historical novels, Summertime (2015) and First Light (2017), with Miss Marley, inspired by Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, to be published by HQ this year.

HQ publishing director Kate Mills, who published Summertime at Orion and acquired Miss Marley for HarperCollins, paid tribute to the author who "could breathe life into the past in a sentence. She was a sublime storyteller and a force of nature--brave, generous, wryly funny and determined to make every word and every day count. She had many friends across the trade and will be hugely missed by her fellow authors, readers, reviewers and booksellers alike."

Expressing sadness at the news of Lafaye's passing, a spokesperson for Orion said: "We were proud to have been the publisher of Summertime and At First Light, and to have helped her reach readers with her wonderful storytelling. She was an inspiring person and talented writer and we are honored to have been part of her creative journey."

Lafaye worked as a commissioning editor at OUP from 1989 until 1999. Martin Baum, senior commissioning editor for psychology and neuroscience at OUP, said, "Vanessa employed me and was great fun to work with. Although very professional, she had a great sense of humor, and just didn't seem to take life too seriously. She was also a very smart person--I think she could match some of our authors on that front. At that time, it was noticeable that she was an outstanding writer--I witnessed the work she undertook on some of our authors' prose. Hers were big boots to fill."

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