- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 28, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Ralph Vicinanza, a literary agent whose clients included Stephen King, Augusten Burroughs and the Dalai Lama, has died. He was 60.

Vicinanza died of a brain aneurysm Saturday night in Bronxville, his colleague Christopher Schelling said in a statement Tuesday on behalf of Vicinanza’s agency, Ralph M. Vicinanza Ltd.

Vicinanza was in publishing for nearly 40 years and early on took a special interest in what he considered an undervalued field _ international rights, working on overseas deals for King, Norman Mailer, Carl Sagan and Philip K. Dick, among others. Vicinanza founded his own agency in 1978 and signed up some of the world’s top science fiction and fantasy writers, including Terry Pratchett, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert and George R.R. Martin.

“As a writer, one of the best people you can have on your side is an agent who knows the market and knows where your work will fit and will sell. He knew that as well or better than anyone in the business,” said John Scalzi, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

King would credit Vicinanza with the idea for serializing “The Green Mile,” his 1996 novel about a prison supervisor and death row inmate during the Great Depression. In the book’s introduction, King wrote that he was having a difficult time because he had other projects going on and knew little about the story’s setting. King knew he needed to do research but worried that research “might kill the fragile sense of wonder” he had developed.

So the author “pressed on, stacking words and hoping for a kindling, an epiphany, any sort of garden-variety miracle.”

“The miracle came in a fax from Ralph Vicinanza, my foreign rights agent, who had been talking with a British publisher about the serial-novel form Charles Dickens had employed a century ago,” King wrote. “Ralph asked _ in the dismissive way of one who doesn’t expect the idea to come to anything _ if I might be interested in trying my hand at the form. Man, I leaped at it.”

A native of New York City, Vicinanza graduated from City of College of New York and initially worked at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. He is survived by his mother, Louise Manganiello; his sister, Louise Billie; and his partner, Terrance Rooney.