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Patricia Olive Kavanagh (31 January 1940 in Durban, South Africa – 20 October 2008 in London)[1] was a British literary agent.

Kavanagh was born in 1940 in Durban, South Africa, where her father was a journalist. Her half-sister, Julie Kavanagh, is a ballet critic. Her half-brother, Michael O'Brien is a geologist for AngloGold Ashanti in Johannesburg. She attended the University of Cape Town, but pursued an interest in acting. She had an uncredited, non-speaking role in Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood after coming to Britain in 1964. She did not get paid for the part, but, as she later recalled, she did "get to snog Richard Burton". It marked the end of her acting career.[2]

While working for J. Walter Thompson as a copywriter, she answered an advertisement for a position as a literary agent. She was hired by "legendary agent" A. D. Peters who taught her how to negotiate and gave her responsibility for selling serialization and newspaper rights for the agency's early group of clients, including Arthur Koestler, S. J. Perelman, Rebecca West and Tom Wolfe.[2]

She was married to, and was the literary agent of, the writer Julian Barnes. They lived in North London. In the 1980s, Kavanagh left Barnes for a relationship with author Jeanette Winterson, author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, but later returned to the marriage. Winterson is said to have used the relationship as the basis of her 1992 novel Written on the Body.[2][3]

In 1995, in a famous incident much discussed in the British press, Kavanagh became the ex-agent of Martin Amis, who left her after 23 years to "throw in his lot" with American agent, Andrew Wylie, nicknamed "the Jackal", as part of an effort to get a large advance for his novel The Information.[4] The decision is believed to have been the cause of Barnes' terminating his long-time friendship with Amis.[2]

In 2001, Kavanagh's employer, now called Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, was purchased by CSS Stellar, a company specializing in sports marketing. Kavanagh was one of several former employees who left the company in September 2007 to form United Agents. All of Kavanagh's clients left to join her at the new firm.[2]

She died of a brain tumour on 20 October 2008.[1]


Among her famous and varied clients were:[5]


  1. ^ a b Obituary, The Times, 21 October 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Grimes, William (2008-10-23). "Pat Kavanagh, Literary Agent, Dies at 68". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-23.  
  3. ^ Kellaway, Kate (2006-06-25). "If I was a dog, I'd be a terrier...". The Observer (Guardian News and Media).,,1803744,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-03.  
  4. ^ Thorpe, Vanessa (2005-08-14). "Mystery man". The Observer (Guardian News and Media).,,1549463,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-03.  
  5. ^ "Pat Kavanagh". Peters Fraser and Dunlop. Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2008-10-21.  

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