Victor, Ed(ward) 1939-
VICTOR, Ed(ward) 1939-
PERSONAL: Born September 9, 1939, in Queens, NY; son of Jack (a photography-equipment shop owner) and Lydia Victor; married Micheline Dinah Samuels, 1963 (divorced, 1970); married Carol Lois Ryan (a lawyer), 1980; children: (first marriage) Adam and Ivan; (second marriage) Ryan. Education: Dartmouth College, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1960; Pembroke College, Cambridge, M. Litt., 1963. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Golf, tennis, travel, opera.
ADDRESSES: Home—10 Cambridge Gate, Regent's Park, London NW1 4XJ, England. Office—6 Bayley St., Bedford Square, London WC1B 3HB, England.
CAREER: Osborne Press, 1963-64; Weidenfeld & Nicholson, London, England, 1964-67, began as book editor, became editorial director; Jonathan Cape Limited, London, editorial director, 1967-71; Alfred Knopf Incorporated, New York, NY, senior editor, 1973; John Farquharson Limited (literary agency), London, director, 1974-76; Ed Victor Limited (literary agency), London, founder and president, 1977—.
MEMBER: AIDS Crisis Trust (council member, 1986-98), Almeida Theater (vice chairman and director, 1994—), Arts Foundation (trustee, 1991—), Garrick Club, Beefsteak Club.
AWARDS, HONORS: Marshall Scholarship, 1961.
The Obvious Diet, Arcade Publishing (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Ed Victor, the London-based literary agent of some of the world's most successful writers—among them such luminaries as Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth, and Erica Jong, and the literary estates of Graham Greene, Iris Murdoch, and Raymond Chandler—stepped into the limelight himself in 2001 when he wrote his first book. The Obvious Diet is a common-sense self-help guide for people who want to lose weight and maintain a healthy body image. Explaining his motives for writing the book, Victor told Geraldine Bell of the London Observer that he simply "wanted to see what it was like." However, Victor also confided, "I would like the book to sell a lot of copies. I didn't write it for the money, although it's always nice to make [it]."
According to Katy Guest of the London Independent, Victor "is known for the ruthless bargaining that has won seven-figure advances for his clients and reduced publishers to quivering wrecks." He learned to look out for himself growing up on the streets of New York, then sharpened his skills during the nine years he spent working in the book-publishing industry in London and New York.
Victor, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, was born in the Queens borough of New York City one week after World War II broke out in Europe. His father Jack ran a camera store, which provided the family with a comfortable lifestyle. However, living in an immigrant neighborhood, young Ed and his brother learned the value of hard work and getting ahead in life early on. Victor was ambitious, in addition to being an excellent student. "My parents were not literary, nor well educated, but they imbued me with a feeling that there was nothing I couldn't do. I grew up perceiving life as a long highway littered with green lights," Victor once told reporter Noreen Taylor of the London Times.
After completing high school, Victor went on to earn a bachelor of arts degree summa cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1960. He won a Marshall scholarship in 1961 and used the money to fund his graduate studies at Cambridge University in England, where he earned a master's degree in English literature in 1963. His thesis examined the role of the artist as hero in the works of novelists James Joyce, Henry James, George Moore, and George Gissing.
Victor had gone to Cambridge with a vague plan to teach at Harvard University one day. He told Noreen Taylor, "As a boy, I had this image of becoming an Ivy-League professor, wearing a tweed jacket with leather patches on the elbows, lecturing on Henry James, and driving an old car. Then I won a scholarship to Cambridge and the dream shattered. Those professors were largely sedentary, inward-looking people, not the kind of person I wanted to be."
His career plans having changed, Victor married an English woman, Micheline Samuels, and began looking for work in London. At the time, the city was at the epicenter of a great reawakening of British pop culture; it was the heyday of the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Carnaby Street, psychedelia, mini-skirts, and hippie flower power. "When I came here, [this] was an austere, post-war society, a black-and-white movie. And then—boom—everything changed. This place became so vibrant, so sexy, so full of life—pop music, photographers—I mean it became really fun," Victor told Geraldine Bell of the Observer.
Although he had changed his mind about a career in academia, Victor remained captivated by the world of books and literature. He took an entry-level job with the Osborne Press, a subsidiary of the Daily Express newspaper. It was not long before he moved to Weidenfeld and Nicolson publishing house, serving as "a kind of editor and tea boy," he recalled for Geraldine Bell. At first, Victor worked on coffee table book projects, but before long he wanted to be involved with more serious content. When he happened to meet one of the company's owners, George Weidenfeld, in the men's room one day, Victor asked for a promotion.
After that Victor's career progressed quickly. Within three years, he was the company's editorial director. In 1967, he moved on to Jonathan Cape, another London publisher, where he remained for four years. When Victor's marriage ended in 1970, he left book publishing and collaborated with business partners to start a new arts and culture newspaper in London called Ink. Unfortunately for Victor, the venture was short-lived and folded after only a few issues. In his interview with Geraldine Bell, he called this the "first major failure" in his career.
In 1973 Victor returned home to New York for the first time in twelve years and went back to work as a senior editor with the Alfred Knopf publishing house. Around the same time, he met and fell in love with New York lawyer Carol Ryan. The pair took a year off to travel around the world. During the trip, Victor decided that he wanted to return to England, where he would be close to his two sons, and that the time had come to settle into a career and make some money. With this in mind, he took a job as a literary agent with London's John Farquharson agency in 1974.
Victor quickly showed a talent for his new line of work. He negotiated a $1.5-million deal for book and movie rights to a now forgotten novel called The Four Hundred by Stephen Shephard, a kind of Victorian-era version of the 1973 Oscar-winning con-man movie The Sting. This early success set the tone for Victor's career as a literary agent. By late 1976, he was doing so well that he left Farquharson and opened his own agency. "No one believed how frightened I was during those first months. I'd wake up at night in a sweat. I even did my own accounts so no one would be able to pull anything on me," he told Noreen Taylor.
Victor's diligence and hard work paid off. He went on to become one of the world's most high-profile and successful literary agents. He began dividing his time between homes in London and a summer home in the Hamptons, the exclusive ocean-side community in the New York suburb of Long Island.
Now semi-retired, Victor no longer seeks new clients and has turned the day-to-day operations of his agency over to his staff. He devotes himself to favored clients and other initiatives in which he is especially interested. One of these projects was his first book, The Obvious Diet, which was inspired by his own lifestyle. Although he is a tall man, Victor, like many people, has always had a tendency to put on weight if he is not careful in his eating habits. "I was getting fat, but—thanks to excellent tailoring—no one knew. After all, I do live it up," Victor told Noreen Taylor. "So I worked out a diet for myself, one so successful that I decided to write a book, to share my discoveries."
Victor reasoned that everyone knows what foods he or she should avoid and what weight-control measures will work best. With that in mind, he advocates a balanced approach to eating: limiting one's intake of high-calorie foods such as pasta, bread, and red meats; exercising moderation at the table; fasting one day per week; and enjoying one "treat day" per week when you can eat anything you like in small amounts. The book also includes recipes, and diet tips from some of Victor's celebrity friends, among them talk-show host Larry King and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "This diet book delivers exactly what the author promises: practical if unoriginal advice on starting and sticking to a diet from an ordinary person, not a professional." Geraldine Bell, writing in the Observer commented that Victor's diet plan involves working with a nutritionist, jumping into an exercise program, and "doesn't read as if it's pitched at mortals." When asked about this, Victor admitted, "[The book] is not written for the average person . . . I wrote it for people like me, who have a lot going on in their lives."
The Obvious Diet sold well enough that Victor was prompted to start a second book. It is about traveling tips, another subject area in which Victor has considerable personal experience.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bookseller, October 19, 2001, "Secret Book," p. 12; December 7, 2001, William Boot, "You Either Read Hello! or You're in It," p. 27.
Daily Telegraph, February 1, 2002, Amanda Ursell, "I Saw I'd Lost 12 lbs.—I Burst into Tears"; April 17, 2002, Amanda Ursell, "How to Beat Diet Saboteurs."
Independent (London, England), November 22, 2001, Katy Guest, "Ed Victor—The Ed-Plan Diet," p. 7.
Library Journal, October 1, 2002, Susan B. Hagloch, review of The Obvious Diet, p. 121.
New York Post, July 30, 2002, "Diet dish—The Skinny on How Rich Stay So Thin," p. 38.
Observer (London, England), November 25, 2001, Geraldine Bell, "Ed's Slimline Tonic," p. R3; August 11, 2002, "The Browser," p. 19.
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2001, "Health: The Obvious Diet," p. 50; December 10, 2001, "Talking of Ed Victor," p. 14.
Times (London, England), November 23, 2001, Noreen Taylor, "Victor's Slimline Tonic," p. S7; July 21, 2002, Jasper Gerard, "Tempted by the Obvious Diet: Atticus," p. 15.*