Friends and colleagues have paid tribute to former Oxford Mail editor Jim McClure, who has died at 66.

In a long and varied career which encompassed photography, reporting and crime writing, he became the only person to have edited both this paper and The Oxford Times.

Mr McClure, who lived in Wallingford, first started working at the Oxford Mail in 1966 as a sub-editor and retired as the paper's editor 37 years later after a period of ill health.

He died from respiratory failure at Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary on Saturday.

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1939, Mr McClure became a crime reporter and photographer for the Natal Witness.

After the birth of his first son, he moved to Britain with his family in 1965, where he joined the Scottish Daily Mail as a sub-editor. From there, he moved to the Oxford Mail and then to The Oxford Times.

His first crime novel,The Steam Pig, won the CWA Gold Dagger in 1971. He then resigned as deputy editor of the paper in 1974 to write full-time.

After publishing 14 books, he returned to The Oxford Times in 1986, as his police books had made him aware of how much he had missed working with others.

He became editor of The Oxford Times in 1994 and three years later it won the Weekly Newspaper of the Year award.

He was made editor of the Oxford Mail in 2000.

He was also an accomplished cartoonist and artist, designing the logo for the Oxford Children's Hospital Campaign.

"I have been very fortunate over the years, in a number of different jobs," he told the Oxford Mail on his last day at Newspaper House in December 2003.

After leaving Osney Mead in 1974, he embarked on his series of critically acclaimed detective novels set in South Africa, and two non-fiction police books.

Mr McClure recalled in 2003: "I spent six years working on two police books and during that time I realised I was temperamentally unsuited to being a writer in a garret and more than anything enjoyed the company of work colleagues and that is why I came back."

Oxford Mail editor Simon O'Neill said: "Jim was a colossus in regional newspapers and in his adopted and much-loved county of Oxfordshire.

"I saw him for lunch not long before he went back into hospital for what turned out to be the last time.

"Although he had been in poor health, he still seemed as strong as an ox and his mind was razor sharp, as were his many anecdotes.

"I have lost a colleague and friend who I respected and admired enormously. My thoughts now are with his family."

Derek Holmes, editor of The Oxford Times, added: "It's hard to sum up Jim McClure and do him justice. He was a great journalist, a great writer, photographer, artist and story-teller.

"As an editor, he was inspiring. What singled him out, though, was a genuine and compassionate interest in those who worked for him and with him.

"His presence enriched many lives at Newspaper House and his loss is felt very deeply."

Shamus Donald, managing director of Oxford Mail publisher Newsquest Oxfordshire, said: "Jim was an inspiration to those of us lucky enough to work with him. Not only was he a gifted editor and writer, there just didn't seem to be any end to his creative talents.

"He was also a fighter, dealing with serious illness during his life with immense courage. We have lost a wonderful colleague and friend."

He leaves a wife, Lorly, a nursing lecturer at Reading University, and their three children James, Alistair and Kirsty.