Death of Ion Trewin

Death of Ion Trewin

Ion Trewin, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation, has died.

Trewin was diagnosed with cancer in October last year. His death today (8th April) was announced by the trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation.

Jonathan Taylor, chair of the trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation, said: “Ion will be sadly missed not only by his many, many friends but also more widely in the literary world.

“His calm, courteous and avuncular demeanour masked a sharp intelligence, shrewd diplomatic skills, a great sense of humour and huge knowledge of and affection for books and book people.

“In his years as administrator and subsequently as literary director, he helped guide the Man Booker Prize through evolution and development while ensuring stability, continuity and, most important, an effective,efficient, independent  judging process.

“Our heartfelt condolences go to Ion’s wife Sue, his children Simon and Maria, and his four grandchildren.”

Trewin was formerly literary editor of The Times, then worked at Weidenfeld & Nicolson as publishing director, managing director and editor-in-chief until his retirement in 2006. He worked with a number of leading authors including Michael Palin, Julian Fellowes, Judi Dench, Richard Holmes, Andrew Roberts, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Antony Beevor, Edna O'Brien and Thomas Keneally. He edited the Alan Clark Diaries, and later wrote Clark’s biography.

In 1974 Trewin chaired the judging panel of the Booker prize, and became a member of its management committee in 1989.

In 2006, he succeeded Martyn Goff as administrator, the role which has now become the literary director of the Foundation. Trewin was unable to attend the Man Booker Prize 2014 dinner due to ill health, but remained involved in this year’s prize.

The Booker Prize Foundation said it was “a poignant coincidence that Martyn died only two weeks before Ion”.

Literary critic Michael Prodger said in an obituary: “There are many revered and admired figures in the literary world but not all are viewed with the fondness elicited by Ion. His avuncular appearance – all beard and Harris Tweed – was a true reflection: he was, it always seemed, a man who had only friends. “Anecdotally, those who knew him over many years will confirm that they have never heard a bad word said about him, the result no doubt of Ion never saying a bad word about anyone else.”

Prodger said Trewin was the “perfect overseer” for the Man Booker Prize.

“Ion's hand could be so gentle and unobtrusive that it was easy not to see the guidance he gave,” wrote Prodger. “As a believer in conviviality and the civilising influence of books he would, at the start of the annual process, bring each year's new judges together for a dinner and make sure that before the business of literary discussion ever began that year's panel became friends first.

“He would arrange regular meetings throughout the judging process, usually at his beloved Garrick Club, and sit quietly taking notes as the discussions went on.

“He must at numerous times have been itching to interject – after all, he knew a thing or two about writing – but he never did, restricting himself to offering advice on rules and procedures.

“He would emerge from each meeting with the warmest of words for the application of the judges and full of pleasure at having witnessed the to-ing and fro-ing among the panel. It was instructive to see the eminent figures chosen to chair the panel – grandees from all fields – refer instinctively to Ion.”

The trustees of the Booker Prize Foundation will announce Trewin’s successor in the near future.

In the meantime, Fiammetta Rocco, who is the administrator of the Man Booker International Prize, will take on Trewin’s role for the remaining 2015 Man Booker Prize cycle, with support from the various members of the Man Booker team.

There will be a funeral followed by a memorial service in due course.

Tributes to Trewin can be left online.

Trewin also had an honorary professorship at the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham; the presidency of the National Academy of Writing; and membership of the Arts Council Literature Panel.