Remembering a Writer Whose Stories Moved Faster Than the Speed Limit

Vic sometimes looked serious but inside he was smiling.

Vic Gold, a longtime Washington political operator and writer, died in June and yesterday there was a celebration of his life at Acadiana, a DC restaurant that specializes in the New Orleans food he loved.

There were a lot of political types in the room and much of  the talk was about politics—Vic was closely tied to President George H.W. Bush and before that to Barry Goldwater, Spiro Agnew, and other Republican pols. He was a conservative but with an open and interesting mind.

In talking with Vic’s family and friends about his writing—he wrote books, newspaper columns, and many articles for the Washingtonian magazine—I mentioned my basic editorial mindset: How fast does this story move? A lot of stories came into the magazine going 45 miles an hour and my goal was to speed them up to 70 mph. You do that by going through a piece two or three or four times looking for words, sentences, and paragraphs that can be cut. I rarely changed a writer’s language—that belongs to the writer—but the length of the piece belongs to the editor.

Vic was pretty rare in that his pieces came in going 70 or 75 miles an hour. He was a pleasure to read and edit and a reflection, I assumed, of a very sharp mind that had not been ruined by going to law school and then into politics.

Then one of his daughters told me that Vic’s wife, Dale, always edited his pieces before he submitted them. I often tell young journalists that given the state of the business today try to marry someone with a good, steady job. For a writer, maybe it’s even better to have a spouse who is a good editor.

Comments

  1. Thank you, Jack! One of my old friends has reminded me that back in the pre-internet era, my father would call home and read his pieces aloud to my mother for her to critique and edit over the phone. Despite the fact that he was often touchy about edits, he knew when to listen to good suggestions.

  2. Richard Mattersdorff says:

    “I rarely changed a writer’s language—that belongs to the writer—but the length of the piece belongs to the editor.” That’s an interesting line. It reminded me of WHITE HOUSE YEARS and YEARS OF UPHEAVAL, books by Henry Kissinger which I thoroughly enjoyed and were about 1000 pages each. Could some editor cut each down to 700 pages without displacing the language that belongs to the author? One could ask the same question about the luxuriant ALL THE KING’S MEN, a novel about which Mr. Gold had some views.

    Condolences to the Gold family.

  3. Dale Gold is the original steel magnolia.

Speak Your Mind

*