Eight Bells: Fred Hills, Jr.

Published on December 2nd, 2020

Fred Hills, long time Senior Editor at Simon & Schuster and previously the Editor-in-Chief at McGraw Hill, passed away on November 7, 2020 due to complications with cancer. He was 86 years old.

Born in New Jersey on November 26, 1934, Hills published several of the best-selling books on sailing over the past 45 years. Overall, Hills published fifty books that ended up on the New York Times best seller list and at one time had six books on the Times’ list at that the same time.

During his tenure he published The Annapolis Book of Seamanship written by John Rousmaniere and four books by Gary Jobson – Sailing Fundamentals, The Racing Edge, The Yachtsman’s Pocket Almanac and The Winner’s Guide to Optimist Sailing.

Fred lived just outside of in Bronxville, N.Y. and spent summers and weekends on Shelter Island, N.Y. out on the eastern end of Long Island. He was a passionate sailor and was often seen sailing his Herreshoff 12 1/2 on the bay off his home.

Rousmaniere and Hills collaborated on a book about the history of the Shelter Island Yacht Club, providing high powered volunteer assistance for that historical volume. Said Rousmaniere, “Simon & Schuster had a reputation for being demanding and rough on writers. Not Fred. We had high quality and a good friendship too.”

Fred earned his Bachelor degree from Columbia University and a Master’s Degree from Stanford University. His long list of famous authors included David Halberstam, Jane Fonda, Vladimir Nabokov, William Saroyan, Phil Donohue, Joan Kennedy, and Raymond Carver.

“He was one of the most successful editors in publishing,” noted Jobson. “I feel quite honored that he had faith in some of my book proposals. The Racing Edge was co-written with Ted Turner and sold 35,000 copies, Sailing Fundamentals is still in print and has sold over 400,000 copies since first being published in 1987.

“Rousmaniere’s excellent volume, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship, is a must selection for anyone spending time on the water, and it too has sold hundreds of thousands of copies since it was first published in 1983.

“Fred was a helpful editor and always positive. When I seemed reluctant about rewriting a section he would simply ask, ‘Do you want to have a better book and sell more copies?’ That certainly gave me the motivation to continue writing. His work on behalf of sailing will extend far into the future.”

He is survived by his wife, Kathleen Mathews, his daughter, Christina Hills Brown, three sons, Bradford, Gregory and Frederic, a brother, Stuart and a granddaughter.

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