The news of William Rushton’s death came just as the magazine was waiting to go to press, its departure delayed by a random and capricious power cut which removed all electricity from Lexington Street but practically nowhere else. The staff of the Literary Review were sitting around in Andrew Edmunds wine bar, shivering over some candles and waiting for telephones, computers, heat and light to be restored, when Willie’s old friend and colleague Richard Ingrams brought the terrible news from The Oldie office in Poland Street, just around the corner. By a strange and rather eerie coincidence I learn that the moment the power was cut, reducing the office to impotence and despair, must have been almost exactly the moment Willie’s great spirit decided to shuffle off its mortal coil – in a hospital bed, from a post-operative heart attack.
If only the restoration of power, light and heat could have brought back the man whose own resources of warmth, wit and energy meant so much more. By the time this delayed issue appears, everybody will have accustomed themselves to the idea of William Rushton as somebody who is dead, rather than as somebody who has just died with the terrifying suddenness which characterised so many of his decisions. At the moment of writing, it is almost impossible even to believe that he has just died, that his quick intelligence is not somewhere reading the same newspapers, chortling over the same news items, or possibly preparing to make one of his unannounced arrivals in the office, requiring everyone present to stop work and sit around laughing helplessly for as long as he decides to stay.
William came with me to the Literary Review from Private Eye, where for the past eight years he had been illustrating a Diary column I wrote. He decorated my first cover, in April 1986, and never missed an issue after that, even if it meant rushing it from Australia, where