September 26, 2022

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Sterling Lord, first literary agent, has died at the age of 102

Sterling Lord, first literary agent, has died at the age of 102

After graduating with a degree in English from Grinnell College in Iowa, Lord Lord was drafted into the army and shipped to Europe near the end of World War II. When the fighting stopped, he helped edit the military’s weekly magazine Stars and Stripes. When the military dropped the publication in 1948, he and a colleague briefly ran it privately, first from Frankfurt, Germany, and then Paris, where Mr. Lorde adopted the elegant dress that became his signature. When the magazine closed in 1949, he moved to New York.

Over the next few years, he worked for or edited several magazines, including True and Cosmopolitan. Those experiences convinced him that literary agents did not serve magazine writers well and that they failed to identify changes in the post-war literary market. Americans, including millions of ex-soldiers, were suddenly more mobile, less territorial, and less interested in the fantasy of escape than they were in understanding the world around them.

He was one of the first customers Hershberg, who wrote Fear Takes Off, Jimmy Pearsall’s memoirs of baseball and mental illness. was another Roland Barberwho helped Marx’s silent brother write “Harpo Speaks!”

Mr. Lord persuaded HarperCollins to pay $3.2 million to lure Berenstain Bears children’s books from Random House. Erica Jung earned $1.2 million for her novel “Fanny” and Judge John J. Sirica $500,000 for paperback rights to his Watergate memoir.

He boasted that he would rarely look for clients, let alone steal them as others increasingly did. His old ways even extended to his letterhead, which mentions his phone number as “Plaza 1-2533”. “If you didn’t know New York City was 212, he really didn’t want to hear from you,” said Stuart Krichevsky, a fellow agent who worked with Mr. Lord for 16 years.

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In 1987, Lord Lord joined with Agent Peter Mattson to form sterling literary lord. Lord Lord gradually gave in to day-to-day management and eventually sold his shares. But he continued to work, and into his 90s remained the highest-earning agent in the office.