Carson was editor-in-chief of Penguin’s adult publishing division throughout the 1980s and 1990s, overseeing the creation of the Viking imprint in the UK and the separation of Penguin’s adult publishing into its current Press and General divisions.
His 40-year career in publishing began at Longman where he was a history editor, and he maintained an interest in history and the classics, remaining as a consultant to Penguin Classics even after leaving the company.
Carson moved to independent publisher Profile in 1998, where he worked until his retirement last year. At Profile, he built a list which included authors Mary Beard, Diarmaid Ferriter and Rodric Braithwaite.
Penguin UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon said: “Peter was a much revered figure in publishing for 40 years, a mentor and guiding light to generations of younger editors who appreciated the range of his enthusiasms, from American thrillers to obscure Russian novels, his extraordinary generosity to younger colleagues and his belief in Penguin as a great cultural and business enterprise.
“Our sympathies are with his wife Eleo Gordon, herself a stalwart of Penguin’s publishing for four decades. Together they were a formidable, much loved pair.”
Profile m.d. Andrew Franklin was first employed by Carson in 1984, and later worked with him both at Penguin and Profile. He said: “Peter was the absolute formative influence in my life, who taught me everything I knew about publishing. He was polymathic in his reading, polylingual, eclectic, and had an infectious sense of humour. He was one of the great publishers of his generation, if not the greatest – but completely self-effacing.”
Reading this sad news this morning took me back to my annual visits to Penguin Books in London during the 1980's when Peter used to hold forth at publishing meetings. A charming and hugely widely read man with a huge intellect I liked and admired him enormously . I learned so much about publishing at those weekly meetings which were a highlight of my visits.