My hero: Deborah Rogers by Ian McEwan

Deborah Rogers, who died last week, became my agent and close friend in the mid 1970s. For almost 40 years, she watched over my writing life and many other aspects of my existence with such care that I could sometimes fool myself that I was her only client. She was the least self-interested person I've ever met – she gave everything to everyone.

To her writers she extended kindness, boundless hospitality, patience, fierce loyalty, very sound critical judgment and good taste. To the publishers she offered much the same, which was how she generally came away with what she wanted. To her colleagues, her employees, she gave the same again, and without quite planning to, made her agency into an alternative model for doing business – collaborative, non-adversarial, familial and highly effective. Family, in one form or another, was her essence. She was a lovely wife and mother, and from that core all else followed.

Deborah had three redeeming faults, to my knowledge. She was heroic and bountiful in her untidiness. Her office, especially her desk, piled dangerously to the ceiling, was a legend in literary London, a monument to a copious mind. The art director of a Woody Allen film thought her room might do for an eccentric publisher's office. The idea was later rejected as humanly improbable.

Secondly, she had a special talent for accidents, and was forever tossing herself down stairs or over parapets or tripping over feet, her own or other people's. Her most recent tumble was in a black cab at an intersection pile-up – she was hardly to blame, but I'm not sure it would have happened to anyone else. (I've worn a seat belt in London taxis ever since.) Typically, she never complained about her injuries, which were sometimes quite severe.

Finally, she wouldn't stop working. Hopeless at holidays, at lazing about. Her notion of catatonia was a three-hour bout of weeding on her knees. These last two defects may have been her undoing. But she never would have retired – dying in harness was what she would have wanted. She was a fabulous spirit, generous, richly inventive, warm and funny. As I write, her families, the real one and the extensive one she created around her, are reeling at their loss.

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