When I started out in publishing, nearly forty years ago, the book trade was more elderly than it is today. ‘Billy’ Collins and ‘Jamie’ Hamilton were in their late sixties; ‘Fred’ Warburg and Victor Gollancz were even older, and Sir Stanley Unwin, with his white goatee beard, looked as old as the hills. Longevity has become less prized in the intervening years. George Weidenfeld is still active in his eighties, and Ernest Hecht of the Souvenir Press is as effervescent as ever: but very few of my contemporaries have survived the course. Red-faced men in chalk-striped suits have been elbowed aside by high-powered lady publishers; long, boozy lunches at the Garrick are tolerated, just, for the few survivors of the ancien régime.
Literary agents, on the other hand, seem exempt from the cult of youth. Many of the top agents of today – Michael Sissons, Pat Kavanagh, Deborah Rogers, Gillon Aitken, Bruce Hunter – were the top agents of my youth, and show no signs of slowing down or jumping ship. Nor