Desmond Clarke, a veteran British library campaigner and former publisher who was awarded an MBE "for services to British public libraries and to literature" in January, died June 9, the Bookseller reported. He was 72. A sales and marketing director at Faber & Faber in the 1980s, Clarke "is remembered especially for his promotion of the Faber poetry list, including devising a much talked-of 'helicopter reading tour' for poets Seamus Heaney and Craig Raine, and persuading poets to read their work aloud to commuters at Waterloo railway station."
In 1983, as director of the Book Marketing Council, he conceived the original Best of Young British Novelists campaign. Clarke later worked for the Thomson Corporation (now Thomson Reuters), across two periods, for a total of 17 years, retiring as president and CEO of its publishing services businesses in North America and Europe. He was subsequently a non-executive director of three book trade businesses and an active campaigner for public libraries.
"I'm very sad to hear this news, coming as it does so soon after the passing of Ed Victor, another great publishing buccaneer from the 1980s," said Robert McCrum, who was editor-in-chief at Faber between 1980-1996. "At Faber, Desmond was one of Matthew Evans's most inspired appointments, a brilliantly unconventional salesman who aimed to reinvent the wheel on a weekly basis. Our authors loved his infectious energy, and he put rocket fuel into our efforts to reshape the Faber list. After Desmond, nothing was ever quite the same again."