Literary agent for Ray Bradbury and others Don Congdon, 91, a literary agent who spotted the talent of Ray Bradbury early in both their careers and whose long list of celebrated authors also included William Styron, Jack Finney, Evan S. Connell, William L. Shirer and David Sedaris, died on Monday, November 30, 2009 at his home in Brooklyn Heights, New York. Mr. Congdon who started out as a messenger at a small New York agency, developed an enviable reputation as a skilled editor, tough negotiator and shrewd judge of talent. While still a young editor at Simon and Schuster, he tuned in to the early stories of Ray Bradbury, who became one of his first clients and very close friend, after he set up as a full-time literary agent in 1947, and who dedicated his novel "Fahrenheit 451" to Mr. Congdon. In 1966 he caused a stir in the publishing world, and precipitated a celebrated lawsuit by Jacqueline Kennedy, when after spirited bargaining he sold Look Magazine the serial rights to "The Death of a President," William Manchester's study of John F. Kennedy's assassination, for more that $600,000. Donald Keith Congdon was born January 7,1918 in Union City, Pa. the son of Grover and Mable (Carroll) Congdon. His father was the freight and station master for the New York Central Railroad in Union City, Pa. His grandparents owned and operated the Congdon Hotel, which was known as one of the finest establishments for traveling salesmen and tourists in North Western PA. With $8 in his pocket Mr. Congdon moved to New York in 1935, when he was just out of Union City High School and found work with the Lurton Blassingame Literary Agency, where he delivered manuscripts to publishers in Midtown, picking up the rejects on return trips. By 1940 he was secretary to Mr. Blassingame, and had begun building his own list of clients. In 1944 an editor at Collier's impressed by the editing Mr. Congdon had done on several stories the magazine had bought, hired him as an associate fiction editor. A year and a half late he was hired by Simon and Schuster as an editor for its Venture Press, recently established to introduce new writers and published writers whose work had been neglected. In 1983 Mr. Congdon started his own agency, Don Congdon Associates, which is now run by his son Michael. Besides representing his clients, Mr. Congdon edited many serious paperback anthologies of mystery and horror stories, tales of romance and war reporting. These included "The Wild Sweet Wine: Superb Stories of Sensual Love" (1959)," Stories for the Dead of Night" (1957) and "Combat: Pacific Theater, World War II" (1959). Besides his parents, Donald was preceded in death by his wife Sally and by two brothers, Allen and George Congdon, his stepmother; Marion (Hare) Congdon, two brother-in-laws, Carl Steinbaugh, and Mark C. Glenn, a step- brother; Grant Hare and his wife Dorothy, a niece; Dedra Steinbaugh. Survivors include a son Michael of Brooklyn, New York, a daughter Wendy Stanton and her husband Alex of Greenwich, Conn. Sister; Dorothy M. Glenn of Union City, Pa. stepsisters, Faniel Pease and her husband Herbert of Union City, Pa. and Elaine Steinbaugh of St. Petersburg, Fla. sister in laws, Adele Congdon of Aiken, South Carolina and Dora Congdon of Vestal, New York. Five grandchildren and one great grandchild, numerous nieces and nephews. Funeral services will be announced by the family at a later date. The Glenn Funeral Home, 62 South Main Street, Union City, PA is handling local arrangements.
Published in Erie Times-News on Dec. 5, 2009.