Richard King (1948-2008)
The New Zealand book world lost one of its most able and respected publishers with the sudden and premature death earlier this year of Richard King, managing editor of Canterbury University Press. Over the past decade CUP has been responsible for publishing 70 new titles, putting 85,000 books on readers’ shelves in New Zealand and overseas, and has featured regularly in book awards. After King arrived at CUP in 1994, and took over its management when it was threatened with closure in 2002, his talent, drive and ambition revitalised the company.
A first-class graduate in English literature from the University of Auckland, King’s first foray into the book world was as a freelance editor, mostly for Penguin while he was living on Great Barrier Island. From there he bought himself a computer, and taught himself to typeset, design and semi-produce books including notable productions such as Anne Salmond’s Two Worlds, James Belich’s two-volume history of New Zealand, Michael King’s study of the Moriori and Alan Duff’s path-breaking Once Were Warriors. He was also an author, his passion for cricket reflected in the mammoth Men in White, the story of New Zealand cricket, which he co-authored with Don Neely.
King was a generous mate, sharing not only his red wine, his raucous humour, his dry wit, his love of Canterbury rugby but also his home with out-of-town writers when they visited Christchurch. He was modest too; there was no hint of vanity or self-aggrandisement in what he achieved. Survived by his partner Gillian Newman and four children, Richard King was 59 when he died on 5 March.