Shocked book trade friends and colleagues have joined in paying tribute to literary agent David Miller of Rogers, Coleridge and White, who died earlier today (Friday 30th December) aged 50.
In a statement, RCW chair Gill Coleridge and m.d. Peter Straus announced: "It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear colleague, David Miller, who died in hospital in London on Friday morning, 30th December. David suffered a major heart attack on Christmas Eve and never regained consciousness. He died peacefully in the company of friends.
"David joined RCW in 1990 as Deborah Rogers' assistant and over the following years worked his way up to become a highly respected agent and director of the company. He served as Treasurer of the Association of Authors’ Agents and, in 2008, the publishing industry named him Literary Agent of the Year. His short novel about Joseph Conrad, Today, was published in 2011 by Atlantic and was praised by A N Wilson as ‘not merely a story about Conrad and a tribute to Conrad. It is a Conradian achievement in itself. A wonderful piece of fiction.’ He edited an anthology of short stories, That Glimpse of Truth: 100 of the finest short stories ever written, which was published by Head of Zeus in 2014.
"He was greatly loved by all who worked with him at RCW, by his wonderful clients and by his many publishing friends far and wide. His kindness, intelligence, wit and humanity were unparalleled, and his passing marks a great loss to the publishing world. He is survived by his sons, Freddie and Billy. We will all miss him dreadfully."
Scribe UK editor-at-large Philip Gwyn Jones commented: "I am distraught - for his wonderful sons, his family, his hundreds of friends worldwide, for my family (my daughter Millie is so upset - David was the perfect godfather). I am full of anger. Anger at what we've lost: the novel he was writing, the novels beyond that, the selections, the discoveries, the steering, above all his presence. He was the better man: kinder, wiser, sharper of wit and allusion, further-seeing, more inventive and agile (in contracts and negotiation as much as storytelling and present-giving). And so selfless he was perhaps too heedless of his own needs. I aspired to be more like him always, and shall strive still. His boys were his centre and they have been a credit to him in this crisis, and they must now be the focus of his friends' vast concern."
Pan Macmillan publisher Jeremy Trevathan wrote that he and his partner, author Paul Bailey, would both miss "our dear friend and neighbour, David Miller, who we have both known for over 25 years - almost as long as we've known each other." Trevathan wrote: "I shall miss him as a vivacious purveyor of publishing wisdom and irreverent anecdote and as one of the most well-read people in an industry of well-read people. I shall also miss him for his avowed philosophy that we all work together in the publishing community, in partnership, to bring great writing to the surface. He was part of my generation in publishing and this just doesn't seem right. My partner, the author Paul Bailey, whose agent he was, shared a mutual admiration for Joseph Conrad, about whose work David had established himself as a highly regarded expert. It is terribly sad to think that his recently commissioned book on the history of Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which he was so much looking forward to working on, will now never be written."
Pan Mac non-fiction editorial director Georgina Morley added: "David has been part of my life, both personal and professional, for almost as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't remember publishing without David even though there must have been such a place. We grew up together in this kind, funny, opinionated industry. He was the dearest friend, the wisest of men, the most fearless agent for his beloved authors and I miss him more than I can say."
Gordon Wise of Curtis Brown, president of the Association of Authors' Agents, said: "In dictionary entry for 'literary agent', the words 'David Miller' would surely be one of the variant definitions. Eclectic and impeccable in his taste, fiercely loyal to his clients and the writer's cause, an inspiring bon viveur whose company you couldn't leave after even a couple of minutes without a smile playing across your face. As a former treasurer of the Association of Authors' Agents, he remained a valued voice from the AAA floor, and shared publicly earlier this year the concerns that any agent or author must have in assessing the consequences of Brexit. And as one of the early agent adopters of Twitter, share his views @drearyagent certainly did. But all that presupposes that David was in himself definable, and he was too clever and original for that. My personal and the AAA's collective sympathies are with his family, his clients and his wonderful RCW colleagues."
Meanwhile Bob Davidson of Sandstone Press gave this tribute: "Sometimes in life you will meet someone and empathy and understanding seem to arrive at the same time. So it was when I met David Miller at London Book Fair, almost by chance. At the next Fair I showed him our new catalogue, he noted our advance in one short year and introduced us to Zoe Strachan and her third novel, Ever Fallen In Love. He had grasped our potential.
"I don’t think it was his Scottishness. He understood that we don’t publish with a tartan band any more than he represented authors in that fashion. He did understand the nature of this publishing house though, and our commitment to Highland Scotland. He understood the difference between publishing from a locale and local publishing. So armed, he became Agent in Residence at Inverness Book Festival in 2013, a post of his own invention in which he gave many hours and much good guidance to prospective authors. None got through on that occasion, which was a great pity for them because David had the experience and ability not only to close the author’s deal but to finesse the career. Potential, guidance, finesse; the ideal mix for his trade.
"Although I was old enough to be a young uncle to him, he was my senior in publishing and I respected as much as liked him. I listened to his advice and, when I saw those famous eyebrows come together, knew I was probably getting it wrong. He was always up ahead, waving me on. He still is."
Many more paid tribute on social media. On Twitter, John Mitchinson of Unbound commented: "I am so sad to learn of the death of a truly good man. He leaves a huge hole in the lives of those who loved him." Author Will Eaves said: "Desolating news, for all who knew David Miller, and knew his love for his family; for friends, for colleagues, for every voice". Writer William Fiennes said news of Miller's death was "So hard to believe - that life-zest, irrepressible."
On Facebook, author Philip Hensher paid tribute to Miller, his first literary agent, as "the first person who took a chance on my writing", saying he was, "hilarious, wayward, incisive, exuberant, gossipy, full of plots and stratagems, clever, infuriating, passionate about books and good writing and.. my friend for a quarter of a century." He mourned: "The conversation we've been having about Conrad since 1992 is unfinished but over."
A private funeral will be followed by a memorial service at a later date.