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Literary agent Owen Laster dies at age 72

NEW YORK (AP) ― Owen Laster, a literary agent and executive of old-fashioned self-effacement and intregity whose many clients included Judy Blume, Gore Vidal and the estate of Margaret Mitchell, died Wednesday. He was 72.

Laster, who retired in 2006, died in his Manhattan apartment after a brief illness, said his friend and attorney Richard Snider.

Numerous friends had visited him recently, including former colleague Robert Gottlieb, who said Laster was “to our industry as a literary agent as Maxwell Perkins was to the publishing industry as a publisher and editor.”

“I remember as his assistant that when a young person called and asked for a meeting with him he would meet with them and encourage them to join our industry. He took the time for people even though he was the most successful agent of his time,’’ Gottlieb, who now chairs the rival Trident Media Group, wrote in a posting on the online industry newsletter Publishers Marketplace.

“He truly never had a bad word to say about anyone. His kindness and gentle manner was unique in a very competitive industry.”

In a career that lasted more than 40 years, Laster’s authors also included Ralph Ellison, Robert Penn Warren and Susan Isaacs. Among his more notable projects were the authorized sequel to Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind,” Alexandra Ripley’s million-selling “Scarlett” and the posthumous release of Ellison’s “Juneteenth,” the novel Ellison spent decades trying to complete after receiving high acclaim for his debut, “Invisible Man.”
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