Gretchen Edgren who died on September 16, 2015 in her home in Florida was no ordinary woman. She had a background that would intimidate any writer. Earlier in her career, she was a staff writer at The Oregonian in Portland, Oregon. Later she edited the Sunday magazine at the San Juan Star in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She then ended up, improbably enough, joining the international magazine Playboy and worked her way up to become a senior editor. Whilst at the magazine, she conducted various in-depth interviews with luminaries, including the American journalist and historian David Halberstam, author and poet Erica Jong of the Fear of Flying fame and maverick filmmaker Clint Eastwood.
I first met her when Playboy asked me to write a piece on the film Foreign Body, which I scripted for English director Ronald Neame. Whilst Gretchen seemed to inspire fear and respect in equal measure at the magazine, I immediately took to her no-nonsense way of dealing with writers. She became a friend as well as a work colleague. Quite apart from her being a sensitive editor, she had a wicked sense of humour. Gretchen held strong views, which she did not hesitate to voice. She also had solid moral values and deep religious convictions. All these qualities didn't seem to fit with her involvement with Playboy Magazine and its maverick owner Hugh Hefner with whom she had a life-long friendship. They wrote numerous books together. It would seem that she became indispensable to him many years after she retired in 1992 as Senior Editor of the Magazine.
When I completed my trilogy (Glaston Town started out as a trilogy), she was the first person I approached to evaluate my work. Not only did she come back with a positive reaction, she offered to edit the novel. That was a stroke of luck.
Working with Gretchen was no ordinary affair, as you might have gathered from my earlier page entitled The Trilogy.
As a member of my team put it: “Everyone would benefit from a Gretchen” after I reported how it was to work with her as follows: “Gretchen is an amazing woman, a consummate pro. She challenges me over everything. Long discussions about rules of grammar and spelling take place. She researches every item. Gretchen will make us all look good!”
Glaston Town turned out to be Gretchen's last literary assignment. I will miss her very much.