Sunday, January 8, 2023

Patricia Holt: R.I.P.

Patricia Holt: R.I.P.
January 18, 1944 - December 3, 2022

I knew Pat in the 70s and 80s..We met at various book events and at special dinners in the Bay Area. I'm sorry we lost touch, but I followed her brilliant career, and we crossed paths occasionally even later. She loved mysteries, writers, and bookstores..and, of course, so much more. (read on) She will be missed.

Here's the obituary from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Patricia Holt, author, book critic, and former Book Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, died on December 3, 2022, at age 78, after a brief battle with cancer.

Pat, as she was known to friends and colleagues, was a fierce and fearless editor, a woman of unflinching integrity with a passion for literature, writers, independent bookstores, and social justice. She also had a wry sense of humor and an unforgettable chuckle that delighted those lucky enough to hear her colorful stories.

Pat was born in Corona Del Mar. Her family moved to San Francisco when she was 2 and she spent most of her adult life there. She earned her bachelor's degree at the University of Oregon.

Pat began her publishing career in the New York and Boston offices of Houghton Mifflin Company in 1969. In the mid-1970s, she and publishing friends in New York launched a co-publishing venture called San Francisco Book Company, where she was senior editor and publicity director. In 1978 she became Publishers Weekly's first full-time Western correspondent, single-handedly lifting a small alternative publishing scene into a publishing mecca that forced the New York publishing establishment to not only pay attention, but to change: no small feat.

Pat joined the Chronicle in February 1982, and for just under 17 years she was the book editor and critic at the newspaper and head of the stand-alone Book Review section, where she wrote a weekly column called Between the Lines. Packed with publishing industry news, the column championed local authors and independent bookstores and railed against the rise of, which threatened their existence. Pat brought national prestige to the Book Review and helped authors like Amy Tan and Anne Lamott get noticed by the East Coast-dominated literary world.

Bay Area readers also know her from the many times she hosted City Arts & Lectures events, interviewing high-profile authors including Jonathan Winters (with Robin Williams backstage), Barbara Kingsolver, Isabel Allende, Fran Lebowitz, and Mary Oliver, to name just a few.

After she left the Chronicle, Pat launched Holt Uncensored, a website where she highlighted new book releases and addressed topical publishing industry issues, especially the challenges independent bookstores faced. As Elaine Petrocelli, owner of the Book Passage bookstores, noted in a letter to her staff announcing Pat's passing, "She consistently stood up for bookstores, authors and readers."

Pat led monthly book groups in the fall and spring at Book Passage's Corte Madera location for more than 20 years, right up until the spring of 2022, and more recently she led monthly book groups at Point Reyes Books. From 2016 - 2018 Pat, Myn Adess, and Doris Ober did a live monthly radio show on West Marin's KWMR: The show was Radio Bookmobile, in which they enthused and criticized and talked and argued about books.

She was the author of The Bug in the Martini Olive, a biography of San Francisco private detective Hal Lipset, whom she once worked for. The book was published by Little, Brown, and Co., in 1991, and reprinted as "The Good Detective" by Pocket Books.

Pat also worked as a "script doctor," a paid consultant to writers looking to get their book manuscript ready to shop for a book deal. She helped her partner, Terry Ryan, shape and then market her autobiographical The Prize-Winner of Defiance, Ohio, which was published by Simon & Schuster in 2001 and adapted for a movie starring Julianne Moore and Woody Harrelson in 2005. And she worked behind the scenes on Cecil Williams' and Janice Mirikatami's 2013 memoir, Beyond the Possible: 50 Years of Creating Radical Change in a Community Called Glide, but requested no credit.

Pat was the first nonlibrarian in 40 years to receive the American Library Association's prestigious Grolier Foundation Award, and she was elected to the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle and later became its vice president during a six-year term.

An innovator with an entrepreneurial spirit, Pat created a book website startup called Reader Meter in 2010 that she envisioned as "the Rotten Tomatoes for books." But after assembling and working with her team for almost a year, it ultimately did not launch due to funding and market pressures. At the time of her death, she had started writing a memoir of working at a New York publishing house as a young woman at the start of her career.

Publicly, Pat will be remembered most as someone who stood up for what she believed in and never compromised her principles. Close friends remember her for her tender heart, her devotion to her many rescue dogs, her passion for opera and show tunes as well as the 49ers, her endlessly inquisitive nature, and her stunning generosity to friends, to those she considered family, and to numerous charities. She had a deep love of the natural world, especially the ocean close to home, at Stinson Beach, and her home away from home in Lanikai, Hawaii. She combined superior intelligence with an intensity that made her impossible to ignore. An intensely private person, she knew more about her friends than they ever knew about her. Her curiosity was endless and her deep fascination with people's stories stayed with her to the very end, as she found out everything about her caretakers' lives and families.

She was predeceased by her parents George and Leah Holt, and her older brother, Fritz Holt, a theater producer and director who won a Tony Award as an executive producer of "La Cages Aux Folles," which won the 1983 Tony for Best Musical. And Pat was there to applaud his victory. She was also predeceased by her beloved wife and partner, Terry "Tuff" Ryan. They had a literary collaboration (Terry was a technical writer) that sparked each other's intellect, creativity, and fun. They laughed together and doted on their many dogs, as well as their strong family of friends. She leaves her cousins John Crowley, Diane Crowley, and Bill Crowley.

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