I first met Jennifer, who died on 3rd July, in 1985, when I had been commissioned by the British Council in Paris to research and write a report on the market for British books in France. The editorial and production side was handled in London by the council’s Book Promotion Department, which Jennifer had joined in 1977 after starting her career as publicity manager at The Athlone Press.
When I returned to live in London, she asked me to write longish profiles of British publishing companies for British Book News (BBN), the council magazine of which she was editor. I soon realised that she was not only a meticulous editor but also entertaining company. On one occasion when we met for lunch she arrived uncharacteristically late, saying she had been “waylaid by yet another person who refused to believe I wasn’t Kate Adie!” She did indeed look very like the BBC news journalist, even down to her hairstyle.
We would also meet up at Frankfurt, as her job included organising and running the British Council stand: a major showcase for the output of British publishers, with some 5,000 titles. She spoke good German, lectured in German in Berlin and Leipzig, and also organised British Council stands in Cologne and Warsaw, as well as in Cairo on one occasion. In the words of former BBN editorial assistant Joe de Souza, “she was a colourful character who loved life, very driven and professional and passionate about publishing and writing and getting information out into the world, but also kind and generous and supportive”. BBN deputy editor Janette Brown remembers how she “loved launch parties and prize dinners like the Booker, always on the lookout for BBN contributors”.
She oversaw BBN’s golden jubilee celebrations in 1990 but three years later it was closed down and she was made redundant. She was soon freelancing, particularly for The Bookseller, where Mark Guest, head of central production, praises her as “a highly skilled editor who knew the book industry inside out”; and for International Book Development, which Tony Read had set up in 1990 after leaving his post as director of the Publishers Association’s Book Development Council. She even organised a festival of crime writing.
She lived in London’s West Hampstead for nearly 50 years, entertaining her many friends and in her last years getting huge pleasure from the little roof terrace that she had somehow managed to persuade a notoriously reluctant Camden Council to let her build. Here she and her partner of 25 years, Christopher Lorne, got huge enjoyment from the panoramic views over north-west London and the plants they managed to train up sticks and drainpipes. She was a great support to Christopher when he was battling the cancer to which he succumbed in 2016.
Her final years were plagued by arthritis and then by what was probably the neurodegenerative brain condition propulsive supranuclear palsy, though Covid-induced delays meant this was never officially confirmed. Her funeral, for close family and friends only, took place on 22nd July. Donations in her memory may be sent to The Book Trade Charity, BTBS, The Foyle Centre, The Retreat, Kings Langley, Herts WD4 8LT, or via btbs.org.