Eliot Fremont-Smith, the former New York Times and Village Voice book critic, National Book Critics Circle President and editor-in-chief of Little, Brown when it was still based in Boston, died Wednesday in Mount Pleasant, S.C., where he lived. He was 78. The cause was heart failure, his wife, Leda Fremont-Smith, said to the NYT’s Motoko Rich, who wrote the obituary that ran in the paper this morning.
In his years at The Times, from 1961 to 1968, first at the Book Review and then as a daily book critic, Fremont-Smith helped usher in an era of modern criticism by tackling the types of books that his predecessors had largely shied away from. He was no stranger to controversy – a Village Voice piece purporting that Jerzy Kozinski had ghost-written much of his work set off a literary firestorm – but also cared chiefly about the books he wrote about. In addition to his wife, Fremont-Smith is survived by his son, Andrew Eliot Fremont-Smith, of New York City.