My ex-agent was called Rosemary Canter. She was at PFD when she took me on, and then left when everyone else did to form United Agents. She was my agent until last year, when she took some time off to have chemotherapy for a recurrence of cancer; she was hoping to come back to work afterwards, and it was only this autumn that she knew she wouldn't be able to. Of course we knew, when she said that, that things weren't going as well as she'd hoped: but it was a shock all the same to hear that she'd died so suddenly.
But that really doesn't tell you much that's worth knowing. What you should know is that she was extraordinary. It wasn't just that she was a fantastic agent - although she was, and I will always be grateful to her for believing in me, and taking me on - but that she was brilliant at the personal touch, the management/morale-building/friendship side of the job, too. I could phone her up and talk through a problem, and even if the news her end was bad and frustrating I would get off the line and feel better. Invariably. And not just better - I'd feel that I'd done exactly the right thing to call her, and that she took my problems seriously and cared about them as much as me, and everything was in the best possible hands. (I.e. hers.) I have never known anyone who was as good at that as she was - and that's not post-mortem sentimentality, it's what I used to say (with a sort of amazed admiration) after I'd hung up the phone. She was utterly charming, and yet it was mixed with a sort of brisk humorous warmth that made you feel that it wasn't calculated, it wasn't just that you were her client... I don't know how publishers managed not to give in to her every demand.
What can I say? I wish I'd known her better. I wish I could have thanked her in a Carnegie-medal-winner's speech. I hope she knew what a difference she made to my writing life.
I'll miss her.