NEW YORK – Ed Victor, an A-list literary agent whose colorful personality was well-matched by such clients as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Andrew Lloyd Webber, has died.
Victor died Wednesday in London of a heart attack, said Charlie Brotherstone, an agent at Ed Victor Ltd. Victor was 77 and had been battling leukemia.
A self-described “shark in the water,” Victor negotiated multimillion dollar deals for memoirs by Richards and Clapton and also found publishers for such top sellers as Douglas Adams’ “Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy” series and Johanna Basford’s adult coloring books. Other clients include Pete Townshend, U2, Carl Bernstein and Candice Bergen. In one notable week in 2005, his client John Banville won the Booker Prize and Victor finalized a deal for Clapton’s autobiography. Two years later, he had the publishing world bidding fiercely for Richard’s Life, which Hachette Livre acquired for $7 million.
“I adored doing business with him,” Henry Holt and Co. president and publisher Stephen Rubin, who published books by Clapton, John Banville and other Victor clients, told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He was straight, pro-active, honest, smart as a whip. And he was tough, very tough, but always within the context of a very fair deal.”
Rubin was close to Victor and called him the “ultimate party boy,” often attending multiple events in a single night. The bearded, ever-sociable agent was once ranked second behind Elton John on Tatler’s list of London’s most invited celebrities.
“Ed Victor funny, stylish, gossipy, very very shrewd,” historian Simon Schama tweeted Thursday, “those striped suits and the eyes of mischief; one of the greats of agenting. ... “He was also master of the perfect meatloaf.”
Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch, who edited Richards’ memoir, said that Victor was “so charming, charming and relentless” and credited his vision and “360 degree” range of interests. Victor handled literary stars such as Banville, Edna O’Brien and former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, who wrote the best-selling memoir Lone Survivor. Victor not only represented Nigella Lawson for her best-selling How to Eat, but wrote his own cookbook, The Obvious Diet.
He could be both relentless and patient, working for years on getting Richards to commit to a book.
“I remember him approaching me long before and saying, ‘So, what would you think of a memoir by Keith Richards?’” Pietsch said.
Victor was highly praised in his adopted country. For 2016 New Year Honours, Victor was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to publishing. British novelist Ken Follett tweeted Thursday that Victor was a “giant of the book world & life-enhancing friend.”
A New York City native, Victor moved to Britain in the early 1960s after receiving a scholarship from the University of Cambridge. He attempted to start a newspaper and was an editor at Alfred A. Knopf and at Weidenfeld & Nicolson before launching his own literary agency in 1976.
“It was a cardinal sin,” Victor told The Guardian in 2004, recalling how one publisher described being an agent as women’s work. “It was a completely inexplicable act. Why would anyone leave publishing to become an agent?”
Victor is survived by his second wife, Carol Ryan. He had three children.