Monday, January 10, 2011

“The Grandma Moses of Mystery Editors”

Today we mourn the loss of Ruth Cavin, who for many years was the crime-fiction editor at St. Martin’s Press, who died Sunday at age 92. As critic Sarah Weinman recalls,
through the various contests the imprint ran (with the [Private Eye Writers of America] for a debut P.I. novel, with Malice Domestic for debut traditional mystery, with the Tony Hillerman foundation for debut crime novel from the Western states) she championed new writers, as well as those who might not otherwise find a home within the publishing industry. People like Steve Hamilton, Bill Crider, Robin Hathaway, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Donna Andrews, Elizabeth Zelvin, Meredith Cole, and John Maddox Roberts owe all or part of their careers to Cavin.

Cavin was also a role model for anyone who thought being of AARP age meant one’s career prospects are finished. After all, she didn’t even begin her stint as a book editor until she was in her early 60s--and St. Martin’s didn’t hire her until she was about 70!
Mike Shatzkin, a self-styled authority on digital change in the book publishing industry, has an excellent tribute to Cavin life at the Idea Logical Company site. Bill Crider adds his own two cents here.

(Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

READ MORE:Remembering Ruth,” by Donna Andrews (Femmes Fatales).

1 comment:

Kathleen said...

I first met Ruth Cavin for lunch at Bolo. She sat in the back, working, since she’d got there earlier than I. She wore jeans and a flannel shirt. All the waiters knew her. They ushered me to her as if to royalty. But there she was, no royal pretension, forthright and simple.

I had a good time talking to her—we discussed Pittsburgh where I live and where she went to school at the university that is now known as Carnegie Mellon. We compared notes on streets and restaurants. She told me things about her early life there and about her present life in New York as if we’d known each other for a long time. I asked her to visit Pittsburgh again and she got wistful, saying she hadn’t been back for a long time. I have to say that when she worked on my manuscripts, she was tempted to visit (and eat since my characters tend to eat a lot). But it didn’t happen. She was too busy.

What a work ethic she had. The jeans and flannel shirt and comfortable shoes were not an affectation. She was pushing ninety and, to her, a day wasn’t right unless she went into the offices at the Flatiron and dressed sensibly enough to put in a long day. She answered the phone once on a Saturday when I thought I was calling to leave her a message
It was clear that everybody at St. Martin’s loved her. She was honest, no-nonsense, and kind. And smaaaart, so smart. Really smart. She loved her work and was fantastic at it.

Kathy George