OCALA, Fla. — Sterling Lord, the uniquely enduring literary agent who worked for years to find a publisher for Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and over the following decades arranged deals for everyone from true crime writer Joe McGinniss to the creators of the Berenstain Bears, has died.
He had just turned 102.
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Lord died Saturday in a nursing home in Ocala, Florida, according to his daughter, Rebecca Lord.
“He had a good death and died peacefully of old age,” she told The Associated Press.
Sterling Lord, who started his own agency in 1952 and later merged with rival Literistic to form Sterling Lord Literistic Inc., was a failed magazine publisher who became, almost surely, the longest-serving agent in the book business. He stayed with the company he founded until he was nearly 100 — and then decided to launch a new one.
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His full roster of clients produced works about sports, politics, murder and the travails of illustrated animals.
Thanks to his friendship with Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, Lord helped launch Stan and Jan Berenstain’s multimillion-selling books about an anthropomorphic bear family. He negotiated terms between McGinniss and accused killer Jeffrey MacDonald, later convicted, for the true crime classic “Fatal Vision.” He found a publisher for Nicholas Pileggi’s mob story “Wiseguy” and helped arrange the deal for its celebrated film adaptation, “Goodfellas.”
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In the early 1960s, Viking had asked Lord to get a blurb from Kerouac for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Kesey’s first and most famous novel. Kerouac declined, but Lord was so impressed by the book that he ended up representing Kesey for his next work, “Sometimes a Great Notion.”
He represented former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and Judge John Sirica of Watergate fame and worked often with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis during her time as an editor with Doubleday and Viking. Some of the great sports books of the 20th century, from “North Dallas Forty” to “Secretariat,” were written by his clients.
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“A number of things about this business have really caught me and made it a compelling interest,” Lord told the AP in 2013. “First, I’m interested in good writing. Second, I am interested in new and good ideas. And third, I’ve been able to meet some extraordinarily interesting people.”
Lord was married four times, and had one child, Rebecca.
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