Pat Kavanagh (Jan. 31, 1940. – Oct. 20, 2008)

The cream of literary London has turned out to pay tribute to Pat Kavanagh, the literary agents and wife of the novelist Julian Barnes, who died from a brain tumour yesterday at the age of 68.


Kavanagh had a diverse and fiercely loyal clientele who admired her for her no nonsense approach to the whole business of publishing.


The former editor-in-chief at Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Ion Trewin, who had many dealings with her and whose son, Simon, is head of the books department at United Agents, a breakaway agency Kavanagh founded,  has said the she that she ” had exceptionally good taste at all levels of literature:

“Most agents are known for one author or style of writing but she represented a phalanx of authors from Ruth Rendell and Joanna Trollope to Andrew Motion. As an editor if she came to you, you took her seriously immediately because she never wasted your time with rubbish.”

 Clive James, writing in The Guardian today ,says:

I can’t speak for her other clients – she never spoke about them either – but in general I would be surprised if there were any who were spared a close encounter with brute reality when she first explained to them why it would be unwise to start living like Donald Trump on the assumption that the next advance would be as big as the last one.


Such bluntness could be daunting but it was also reassuring because the client guessed, correctly, that his new mentor wouldn’t be pussyfooting with the publishers either


 Pat could make publishers shake in their handmade shoes. On the appointed day to have lunch with her they always dressed with extra care.


Some of the awe she inspired at all levels of the business may have come from the fact that she had a self-assured hauteur and yet was hard to place.


Stuff no longer posted to the Pete Atkin Web Forum.


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