Award-winning British author Mal Peet died Monday, March 2 following a brief illness. He was 67.

Peet was born in Norfolk, England in June 1947. He earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English and American Literature from the University of Warwick. A self-described late bloomer in his literary career, Peet worked odd jobs and traveled until the age of 40 when he married fellow writer Elspeth Graham. The pair collaborated on a number of children’s books for educational publishers for which Peet sometimes also provided illustrations. After a decade, he tired of publishing educational fare and decided to stretch his creative wings and write a novel. The result was Keeper (Walker Books, 2003; Candlewick, 2005), a YA novel featuring a South American soccer phenomenon that afforded Peet an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the game he was passionate about.

In his home country, Keeper won the Nestlé Smarties Bronze Award and the Branford Boase Award for first novelists, and his follow-up, Tamar (Walker, 2005; Candlewick, 2007), set in the Netherlands at the end of WWII, was awarded the prestigious Carnegie Medal in 2005. Several more novels followed, including The Penalty (Walker, 2006; Candlewick, 2007) and Exposure Walker, 2008; Candlewick, 2009), both companion titles to Keeper. His most recent book was The Murdstone Trilogy (David Fickling Books, U.K., 2014; Candlewick, fall 2015) a title marketed to adults in Britain, though he bristled at his work being categorized as for a particular age group or audience.

“Mal was a writer’s writer,” said Peet’s agent, Peter Cox. “He was universally adored and admired by other writers. His talent was as prodigious as his warm, wide-open heart. I have lost a dear friend, and we have all lost an author of exceptional genius. His best and most exciting years were still ahead: his premature death is utterly tragic.”

Liz Bicknell, executive editorial director and associate publisher at Candlewick, shared this remembrance: “Mal was an exquisite writer and a fabulous person. I loved his work, and I loved him. I’ve spent the morning looking at our more-than-a-decade-long correspondence about the nine books Candlewick has published (or is about to publish, in the case of The Murdstone Trilogy). Peppered with colorful language, it’s the way excited working class Brits talk to one another, and in that, Mal and I were kindred spirits. “Even when we talked about his illness last month, he was funny and irreverent. That was his way, and I got it. Totally. I can’t bear that I’ll never hear him call me darling again, or say something was “bloody brilliant.”

Peet is survived by his wife, three children, and two grandchildren. A book of condolence is available here.