Loving Ruth

Yesterday morning, news reached me that the woman who had picked me from a pile of obscurity had died.  92 year-old Ruth Cavin, the legendary Ruth, who started her career at the age of sixty and overnight seized the heart of the publishing industry; whose eye went to the essence of a book’s strengths—and weaknesses; who held court at conferences by claiming a table at the bar, cigarette and drink to hand, while attendees came and paid homage; who made her writers feel loved even as her editorial pencil left them bleeding.

Ruth, publishing’s grandmother, the kind of woman you just knew had A History, the kind of woman who would toss off a remark that made you do a double take, because she looked far too innocent to have said that.  The kind of woman who could be a lady and have a wicked sense of humor.

The kind of woman we need more of, and now have one less of.

Blessings, Ruth.  I can just hear that great laugh of yours, when St. Peter grins at you from the pearly gates and says, “Of course you can smoke here, for God’s sake! Would you like a drink as well? And not to hurry you, but once you’re settled in, we’ve got all these great young writers…”

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  1. Pat Floyd on January 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

    When I come across a writer–and I’ve encountered several–who expresses in acknowledgements appreciation to Ruth Cavin, I know the book will be worth reading and that the writer was very fortunate. I would love to have known Ruth in person as well as through her writers. I had no idea she began her editing career so late.

    Thank you, Laurie, for calling us to celebrate her life.

  2. strawberry curls on January 11, 2011 at 9:39 am

    What could be more fitting for an editor who fostered writers than to have a lovely eulogy written by one she helped.


  3. Merrily on January 11, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Laurie, what a great loss, but how proud she must have been of you and the other authors she championed! All the pleasure you give us is a lasting tribute to her. And I’m sure she would have loved your tribute.
    I once knew a lady (now deceased, also) who was of similar spirit, I think. She had been, among other things, a member of the OSS during WWII, and was also a member of a blue-blooded New England family. Every so often she’d come out with something shocking and you’d think, “Did this refined little lady just say that?”
    Thank God for the women who inspire us!

  4. Laraine on January 11, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Oh, Laurie, sorry to hear of Ruth’s passing. I guess she had to leave us eventually, but it sure would have been good to have her around longer. So glad she spotted your work; lucky for us readers!
    May she rest in peace.
    May the Powers That Be (whoever/whatever ‘they’ are) bring you a new close friend, a new superb editor (if need be) at the right time, to ease this loss and close the unclose-able gap.

  5. Meredith on January 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I had noticed that Ruth Cavin did not seem to be at the Bouchercon in SF and was afraid that might be a bad sign. A treasured newspaper article from 2001 described her, including the timing of her career as an editor. Then in 2006 I had the immense good fortune to recognize it when I was sitting next to her at Bouchercon. I think I had the audacity to say “I worship you,” though it was only the truth. She did not blink an eye and signed my Bcon book as requested. It would have been a grand thing to hear some of those stories. I am so sorry she is gone and so glad she was with us.//Meredith

  6. Mem Morman on January 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

    How well said, Laurie! I remember Ruth Cavin with so much affection from the first years of Malice Domestic, and I know that her influence was one of the things that moved the convention to success when we started it with a dream and not even a shoestring back in the late 80s. She always told me that she would read any novel I wrote and sent to her. I never wrote anything, but for 30 years I’ve treasured that promise in my heart.

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