Legendary Editor Alice Mayhew dies at 87
Carolyn K. Reidy
Chief Executive Officer
It is with great sadness that I must report that Alice Mayhew, Vice President and Editorial Director of Simon & Schuster, died peacefully at home earlier today, in Manhattan. She was 87.
Alice’s first job in publishing was writing reviews for Commonweal before holding editorial positions at Harper & Row and then Random House. She joined Simon & Schuster in 1971, and in her nearly fifty years here she established herself as a true mainstay of our publishing efforts, editing a distinguished list of writers in history, biography, journalism, politics, contemporary affairs and popular culture. Four authors published by her were awarded the Pulitzer Prize—Taylor Branch, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Diane McWhorter and Garry Wills—and many others received prestigious honors and recognitions. Other works she published, such as Walter Isaacson’s STEVE JOBS and OUR BODIES, OURSELVES from the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective, became lasting cultural touchstones.
While Alice will always be remembered as the editor of the groundbreaking Watergate exposé ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (and as the editor of every one of Bob’s works since then), her long and illustrious list of authors reads like a who’s who of the best and the bestselling in nonfiction over the past five decades. The vast range of authors whose works she shepherded to publication is simply breathtaking, a testament to her skill and versatility, and includes Jill Abramson, Jonathan Alter, Stephen Ambrose, John Barry, Michael Beschloss, Sidney Blumenthal, Steven Brill, William Broad, David Brooks, Connie Bruck, President Jimmy Carter, C.J. Chivers, Jared Cohen, Richard Cohen, Jennet Conant, Joe Conason, John Dean, E.J. Dionne, David Herbert Donald, Richard Engel, Frances FitzGerald, Betty Friedan, Diane von Furstenberg, Robert Gates, David Gergen, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harold Holzer, Thomas Hoving, Fred Kaplan, J. Anthony Lukas, David Maraniss, Kati Marton, Judith Miller, Andrew Nagorski, Sylvia Nasar, Patricia O’Toole, Peter Pringle, Eleanor Randolph, Richard Reeves, William Shawcross, Sally Bedell Smith, James B. Stewart, Evan Thomas, Paco Underhill, Mark Whitaker, Amy Wilentz, John Fabian Witt, Christopher Wren and many others.
Those of us who worked with Alice, and I have had the pleasure for nearly thirty years, knew her to be sharp, direct and astute; she could be tough, but her passion, enthusiasm and wisdom were always expressed in the service of bringing out the best work possible from her authors, and then assuring that they received the best possible publication they could expect to receive. As Jonathan Karp, Publisher of Simon & Schuster noted, she “had the grit of TR and the wit of FDR.” Needless to say she was highly opinionated, and we were the beneficiaries of her unique insights, which served to make all of us better at what we do. Not least, her office was a training ground for innumerable assistants who went on to great accomplishments and careers in book publishing and related fields.
Alice’s loyalty to her authors was so absolute that despite her extraordinary record in publishing and the many offers she received over the years, she repeatedly refused to participate in any form of publicity or recognition for her achievements, never wavering in her conviction that the spotlight should always remain entirely focused on her authors. It is no wonder, then, that her dedication and commitment were frequently returned in the form of author-editor relationships that lasted decades and entire careers.
Whether she was sharing some good news about one of her books, or her always fascinating observations about the political events of the day (politics being her other full-time passion), Alice remained until the very end an exemplar of what an editor could and should be. It is difficult to imagine Simon & Schuster without Alice and her unrelenting energy: her contribution to our company and our culture has been immense, and she will be deeply missed both here and in the larger literary community.
Plans for a memorial service will be announced at a later date.
Alice Ellen Mayhew
June 14, 1932–February 4, 2020