Clive James pays tribute to the celebrated literary agent who died yesterday
The Guardian, Tuesday October 21 2008
Already a star agent in the days before there were any others, Pat Kavanagh had the glamour to reduce most men and not a few women to slavery.
She was beautiful, clever and loved to laugh, but she could also have a blunt way with a fool. Since most writers are fools, especially about money, a new client was likely to find his dreams being set straight quite early in the relationship. I can't speak for her other clients - she never spoke about them either - but in general I would be surprised if there were any who were spared a close encounter with brute reality when she first explained to them why it would be unwise to start living like Donald Trump on the assumption that the next advance would be as big as the last one.
Such bluntness could be daunting but it was also reassuring because the client guessed, correctly, that his new mentor wouldn't be pussyfooting with the publishers either.
Pat could make publishers shake in their handmade shoes. On the appointed day to have lunch with her they always dressed with extra care.
Some of the awe she inspired at all levels of the business may have come from the fact that she had a self-assured hauteur and yet was hard to place.
She didn't come from any recognisable British social stratum. She was a South African who had sent herself into exile. Like the Australian expatriates of the same generation, she counted as having come from nowhere.