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Desmond Elliott (1930 – 12 August 2003) was a distinguished publisher and literary agent. Having started his career at the publishing house Macmillan, he later went on to found his own publishing company, Arlington Books. In a career of over almost 60 years he was responsible for discovering a number of writers who went on to be bestsellers, including Penny Vincenzi and Jilly Cooper.
Desmond Elliott was born in London on Christmas Eve 1929. At the age of 10 he was placed in the Royal Masonic Orphanage in Dublin, Ireland, following the death of his father. He had the benefit of a good education and he won a scholarship to Trinity College, Dublin. However, he decided to travel to England in 1947 at the age of 16 with just £2 and a letter of introduction from the editor of The Irish Times.
Desmond Elliott first worked as an office boy for Macmillan Publishers, before joining Hutchinson (publisher) and then Michael Joseph (publisher). After being fired by Max Reinhardt (publisher) he received £1,000 compensation and a job offer from Sidney Bernstein, of ITV Granada – who then had second thoughts. Using the remainder of his compensation, he set up as an independent agent in 1960 and founded Arlington books.
His dedication and business sense made Elliott one of the most successful men in his field and was key to the creation of a list of hugely successful blockbuster novelists; Candida Lycett Green, Penny Vincenzi and Lynda Lee-Potter, to name but a few. He also introduced Tim Rice to Andrew Lloyd Webber as an early client. Respected and loved by his authors, in the words of Candida Lycett Green, Elliott was simply "magic".
Desmond Elliott lived his life with verve, drinking only champagne, treating Fortnum & Mason as his local "cornershop" and only ever crossing the Atlantic on Concorde. His office was in Mayfair and he had houses in St James's and on Park Avenue.
The Desmond Elliott Prize
Before his death in 2003, Desmond Elliott stipulated that his literary estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award "to enrich the careers of new writers". The annual Desmond Elliott Prize was therefore founded in 2007, awarding a sum of GB£10,000 to the author of a first novel published in the UK. Elliott once told the novelist Sam Llewellyn that his ideal novel was a "cross between a treasure hunt and a race" and the winning novel must therefore exhibit depth and breadth with a compelling narrative.
- "'Overnight success' in line for Desmond Elliott prize", BBC News, 25 May 2011.
- Man Alive, BBC.
- “Curtis Brown”
- "Desmond Elliott" (obituary), The Daily Telegraph, 30 August 2003.
- Liz Thomson, "Desmond Elliott obituary", Publishing News, 15 August 2003.
- "Foyles". Archived from the original on 2013-01-17. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
- "Desmond Elliott Prize Website". Archived from the original on 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-06-07.
- Guy Dammann, "Tom Rob Smith hot favourite for Desmond Elliot prize", The Guardian, 22 May 2008.
- Literary Festivals
- Katie Allen, "Shukla, Connolly, Kelman on Desmond Elliott longlist", The Bookseller, 11 April 2011.
- Richard Lea, "Anjali Joseph wins Desmond Elliott prize", The Guardian, 24 June 2011.
- Charlotte Williams, "Seren, Chatto and Doubleday on Desmond Elliott shortlist", The Bookseller, 24 May 2012.
- "Harper Collins". Archived from the original on 2011-10-21. Retrieved 2012-06-07.