I was very sad to learn yesterday of the death of Mal Peet. People in the publishing world always seem to refer to each other as lovely, kind, beautiful human beings – at least in public. In Mal’s case it really was true; I’ve never heard a bad word said about him. I didn’t know him very well, but he lived here in Devon, so I bumped into him a few times on trains to London or planes to the Edinburgh Book Festival. He was always wonderfully friendly, and great company.
He was so well-known and so highly regarded in the book world that I always assumed he was one of those elder statesmen who had been writing for decades, but in fact he only published his first novel in 2003 (although he had been working on educational titles with his wife, Elspeth Graham, for some years before that). He produced more fine books in the last twelve years than most of us will manage in a lifetime: Keeper, Tamar, The Penalty, Life: An Exploded Diagram... I saw several people online yesterday refer to him as one of our best YA authors, and that’s certainly true, but Mal defied genres and categories, so it’s probably fairer just to say that he was one of our best authors.