South African bookselling chain Exclusive Books is mourning the sudden death of Lauren Watson, manager of its flagship Hyde Park store in Johannesburg.
Watson, who visited Foyles, Charing Cross Road in January 2015 as part of an exchange programme between Foyles and Exclusive Books, died in September. She had been diagnosed with a brain tumour just one week earlier.
Born in 1965, Watson grew up in Eastern Cape, joining Exclusive Books Hillbrow as a bookseller in 1986. After a spell working in the UK, she returned to South Africa, working for Real Books and then joining Facts & Fiction in 1995, which three years later merged with Exclusive Books. She managed the Mandela Square, Johannesburg branch at Exclusive Books before being moved to the flagship Hyde Park branch in 2013 when Benjamin Trisk bought the business.
Watson grew sales in the Hyde Park branch by 25% in 2014 and was awarded the chain's Manager of the Year accolade.
Paying tribute to Watson, Trisk said: "Her ability not only to be current with international publishing lists across the English-speaking world, but to spot the book that was different, that would have an immediate pull, that called to the fractured and broken intellectual life of this country, her ability to curate the national taste more unerringly than anyone I have ever met, was quite unique – and I know that every publisher, every person who called on her, every one of her colleagues, will testify to this."
Pan Macmillan international director Jonathan Atkins told The Bookseller: "The Exclusive Books flagship shore is quite simply one of the best bookstores in the world and Lauren was the most impressive bookseller I have met on my travels."