John Hawkins, the head of one of the nation’s oldest literary agencies and who represented Joyce Carol Oates, Gail Godwin and Harry Crews, died on November 13th at the age of 72.
Born in 1939 in Seattle, Washington, John Hawkins grew up in Kennett Square, PA. He graduated from Harvard in 1962 and received a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania in 1964. He worked in banking for a few years at Banker’s Trust, but in 1966, John Hawkins was persuaded by his father-in-law to join the firm of Paul R. Reynolds Inc, which had been established in 1893 by his wife’s grandfather, Paul Revere Reynolds. He became president of the company in 1980 and changed the name of the firm to John Hawkins & Assoc. in 1985.
“John Hawkins was a beloved friend to his writers, warmly sympathetic, supportive and shrewd in his judgments, gifted with a wonderful sense of humor,” said Joyce Carol Oates. “He was both gentlemanly and totally contemporary. And he loved books both as reading experiences and works of art.”
“John was one of the old school who made into the present.” said Dan Halpern, Joyce’s longtime editor at Ecco. “His goodwill, humor, intelligence and love for literature was evident in every phone call I had with him for twenty years.”
Over the course of his 45 year career, he represented Alex Haley, James Clavell, Thomas McGuane, E. Lynn Harris, Steve Martini and Robert Parker. In 1976 he negotiated what is reputed to be the publishing industry´s first million dollar contract for James Clavell´s THE NOBLE HOUSE, the same year that Alex Haley´s international bestseller ROOTS was published, which he also represented.
“John sold my first novel 43 years ago this December,” said Gail Godwin. “I have had many publishers and editors since, but John and I have stayed together. He was an ardent and subtle master of representing a client, and throughout close to half a century I have always felt that he was completely on my side.”
He is survived by his brother Richard Hawkins and his nephews, Graham and Spencer Hawkins.