Literary agent Carolyn Whitaker dies

Literary agent Carolyn Whitaker dies

Literary agent Carolyn Whitaker has died, aged 79, following a long battle with cancer.

Whitaker died last month on 17th June, but the news was only communicated to authors yesterday (4th July), confirmed children’s fantasy author Elizabeth Kay, who worked with Whitaker for nearly 30 years.

Whitaker, born 10th July 1936, ran London Independent Books, an agency she founded in 1971. It specialised in commercial, fantasy and teenage fiction, as well as show business and travel. In addition to Kay, her authors included science fiction and fantasy authors Richard Morgan, Chris Wooding, Joe Delaney and Alex Bell, award-winning children’s and YA authors Keith Gray and Emma Pass, award-winning travel writer and renowned Arabist Tim Mackintosh-Smith, horror writer Glenn Mitchell, action thriller writer Craig Simpson, saga author Connie Monk, and Theakstons long-listed crime writer Steve Mosby.

Mosby, who worked with Whitaker for 14 years, called her "completely amazing” in a tweet yesterday, and reflected in a blog that her constructive feedback that was "pretty much always correct”.  

"I valued her judgement and expertise a great deal,” he said. "The news of her death was not unexpected. She had been ill for some time, and while I was determined to stay with her as long as she felt able to continue, it was clear when I spoke to her in May that she’d reached that point. I was glad to have the chance to tell her then how important she had been to me, and what a difference she had made to my life. (Carolyn, still typically bullish even then, was having absolutely none of such sentimentality). It is very sad news indeed. I will miss her. She was absolutely one of a kind, and my thoughts are with her friends and family."

In tribute, Kay said: "Carolyn Whitaker was my literary agent for nearly 30 years, and died on June 17th after a long battle with cancer. She became an extremely good friend, and I have wonderful memories of this idiosyncratic and formidable woman both here and abroad. Her house in Turkey was visited by several of her authors, and her speedboat skills were both accomplished and at the same time terrifying. 

"She once said that her life had divided itself into sections: the first part on horseback, the second part on a boat with her beloved husband, Pat, whom she survived, the third part as a literary agent and the last part in the horse racing world from her armchair. 

"There have been too many tributes to name all those who have offered their condolences, but she launched many writing careers with her honest and uncompromising criticism and remarks such as 'Get rid of the parents!' when she was dealing with children’s fiction. I think Bruce Crowther summed her up the best, though. 'She had an unerring eye for what was good, what was bad, what was padding, and she always spoke her mind.’  She will be very much missed."

Her funeral will be at 2pm on Monday 11th July, at St Mary the Virgin, 64 Hound Rd, Netley, Southampton SO31 5FU.