Sag Harbor, Nantucket, and Provence.
His son, Nicky, came and stayed with us
in London. Our son, Ben, stayed with
George in New York. Ben now says it was
a privilege and a joy to have known “
Uncle George”—this very model of a cultured man who read everything but also
knew how to have fun.
Patricia Reilly Giff
My friendship with George was all about
story. He’d remind me of the radio programs we listened to as children in the
’40s. “Grand Central Station,” he’d say,
“crossroads of a hundred thousand lives.”
Or “The Shadow knows.” There was Lux
Theater and... “Can a girl from a small
mining town in the West find happiness?” We’d smile, remembering.
“Why don’t you write?” I asked him
once. “ I’d much rather read,” he answered.
And read he did, such a wide range of
books. He shared with me, filling in gaps
in my own reading life, mailing me books,
calling, emailing: “You must read....”
He read my manuscripts right from
the beginning. Occasionally he’d say,
“You’re not quite there,” and talk things
through with me. And in the beginning,
“You haven’t made me cry yet.”
For almost 40 years I wanted my sto-
ries to be there for George Nicholson. I
wanted to make him cry. He was my
editor, my agent, my dear friend. There
was no one like him.
George could book talk better than anyone I know. He was just so articulate and
his enthusiasm was infectious. I love this
story about him, which took place at
Viking in the ’70s when George was
editor-in-chief. Sales conference was a
much more modest affair in those days,
taking place in one room, on one day. On
this occasion, the adult presentations had
run long, so the sales director announced
that there would be no time to present
the children’s list. George was outraged.
He rose to his feet, said, “Give me 10
minutes!” and proceeded to present the
entire list without a note, within the 10
minutes. He got a standing ovation.
George Nicholson loved books. I can’t
think of a better thing to say about a person, or anything that would more clearly
describe what he meant to me, than
that—George loved books and writers
and readers and the written word and
everyone and everything that came to-
Friends, authors, and former
colleagues pay tribute to the
beloved agent and publisher,
who died on February 3 at 77
George and I knew each other before either of us knew anything about children’s
books. We met in the summer of 1959
on the campus of Carleton College,
where George was on post-senior business and I was taking a pre-freshman
course. We met again a few years later
when we were both working for Western
Publishing and began a friendship that
lasted a lifetime. George was a terrific
Anglophile, and when I was offered a job
in London, it was he who encouraged me
When I married Christopher and took
him to the U.S. for the first time, George
gave up his bed to us on our first night
in New York. Gratefully we retired early,
jet-lagged, while George stayed up, listened to Gertrude Lawrence and had a
couple of drinks. He then went to bed as
usual, forgetting we were already there.
Embarrassment, confusion, laughter.
Christopher said he thought maybe this
unusual hospitality was an old American
custom that I hadn’t told him about.
Over the years, especially when I was
a children’s publisher at Collins, George
and I did business together, but the busi-
ness and the family friendship meshed.
We had holidays together in England,