Farewell to Dot Lumley
I was saddened this week to learn that literary agent Dot Lumley had lost her battle with cancer. I met Dot on several occasions over the years, and she was a lovely lady, who always had time for writers, be they new or more established ones.
Dot handled many genres of fiction incuding both crime and horror. I submitted both SUFFER THE CHILDREN and DEATH SCENE to her. She rejected both, but with personal letters and encouraging words that convinced me she had taken the time to read them through, instead of going down the form rejection route.
Our paths crossed at a variety of conventions – since she dealt with all genres she attended both the crime and the horror/SF/fantasy Cons. At the St Hilda’s Crime Conference in August 2009, I found myself sitting next to her at dinner on the Saturday night. The contract for SUFFER THE CHILDREN from Lyrical Press had come to me days before, and I was still trying to decide whether or not to accept it. I knew that Lyrical Press was an e-book only publisher, and by accepting the contract I was likely to forfeit the opportunity to ever see SUFFER THE CHILDREN in print. I took the opportunity to ask Dot for her advice. She told me that if this was a manuscript that was doing the rounds for a while (it had been), and if the e-book contract was for a finite length of time (it was), then I had nothing to lose and I should go for it. When I returned home at the end of the weekend, I took Dot’s advice and sent an email accepting the contract.
The last time I saw Dot was in January 2011. The T Party Writers’ Group hold a Winter Social in the early months of the year, where we get together for food, drink and chat. In the last few years we have taken to inviting guests – authors, agents and editors who have come to speak to the group or got involved with us in some other way. Or sometimes just because we like them. Dot was attending our social event as a guest that year, and I spent a good part of the evening chatting to her. In fact, at one point it was just her and me sitting in a corner on our own. Then my husband started chatting to one of our other guests, Mike Carey – it turns out they have a shared interest in building model kits – and a few minutes later I realised that the rest of the group were pulling chairs up to join us at the table, and we had been hogging the special guests.
This picture was taken on that evening. Much wine had flowed by that point.
When I heard about Dot’s death I felt compelled to pay homage to her in a blog post. I had to look back at previous posts to avoid repeating myself, as I was sure I had told at least one of these stories on this blog before, but it turns out that I hadn’t. Sometimes I think about posting things and then don’t, for whatever reason. I think in this case I wrote a post about our social event and the famous guests I had been schmoozing with, and was worried it would come across as nothing more than blatant name-dropping so I deleted it. I also had a reluctance to share this photo, which I considered somewhat unflattering at the time.
But now Dot is gone, and this is the only picture I have of the two of us together – a record of the last conversation I will ever have with her. Once again I am reminded of how brief and fragile life is. Now I want to share this photo with the world, and it no longer seems unflattering, because in it we are both alive and well, and smiling.
Dot was an exceptional lady and the publishing world is all the poorer now she has left it. Jo Fletcher has written a very touching blog post paying tribute to Dot’s courage, and I encourage you to go read it. It’s far more eloquent than what I have written here.
Many literary figures have left us of late – James Herbert, Iain Banks and Ann Crispin are names that immediately spring to mind. Dot Lumley was not as famous as these other names, but she touched many lives in the publishing world, including mine. Her absence will be noticed.
Goodbye, Dot. I shall miss running into you at conventions, but I hope you have found peace.