During seven decades as a publisher and literary agent, Charles Pick dealt with some of the 20th century’s most famous figures.
By Anita Singh
John Steinbeck, JB Priestley, Roald Dahl, John Le Carré and Catherine Cookson were just a tiny handful of the authors he nurtured over the years.
Pick had many a tale to tell but when he died in 2000, aged 82, his memoir was unpublished. Now the manuscript detailing his entertaining encounters with the rich and famous has been donated to the University of East Anglia, along with the rest of his archive.
The memoir is a treasure trove of anecdotes, from Wallis Simpson’s jealousy of Marilyn Monroe to the Queen discussing her children’s reading habits.
They recall a bygone age – days when Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa, could check in for her Pan Am flight with a bottle of Moet et Chandon and a dozen shucked oysters as a carry-on airline meal, and when the Queen Mary ocean liner was the preferred mode of travel.
He accompanied John Steinbeck to his Nobel Prize dinner (noting that the author had “given up hard liquor and was just drinking beer” for the occasion) and drank vermouths with Graham Greene on his terrace in Antibes, but was equally at home in less glamorous surroundings – one of his warmest memories was of visiting Catherine Cookson’s house for lunch, where she fed him double helpings of home-cooked steak and kidney pie.
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