BENEDICT CANYON—Frances Kroll Ring, best known as novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last secretary, died June 18 after a short illness, said her family.
Ring, 99, had recently returned to her Benedict Canyon home after hospitalization for a broken hip, according to a statement given by her daughter to the Los Angeles Times.
“What am I supposed to do, just lie here?” Ring reportedly said. “It’s impossible, I can’t just lie here.”
That indomitable can-do spirit characterized Ring’s life.
In 1939, at the age of 22, she impressed an ailing Fitzgerald with her honesty and unflappable demeanor.
“He asked me all kinds of questions,” she said in 2009 to book critic David L. Ulin. “Then he gave me some money and asked me to wire it to his daughter—and to call me when I was done. That was his way of testing my honesty.”
Ring passed another test when she opened a drawer full of empty gin bottles and remained unruffled. She would dispose of those bottles in the Sepulveda Canyon to help Fitzgerald evade his landlord’s detection.
Fitzgerald offered her $35 a week for her services, and immortalized her in his Pat Hobby stories.
After Fitzgerald’s death in 1940, Ring continued her literary career, working first as a reader in Paramount’s story department, and later wrote freelance book reviews for the Los Angeles Times.
She became the editor of Westways, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s magazine, in 1972. In that capacity, she published stories from critically acclaimed authors like Lawrence Clark Powell, Anaïs Nin, and Richard Lillard, among others.
In 1985, Ring published a memoir of her time with Fitzgerald, entitled “Against the Current: As I Remember F. Scott Fitzgerald.” It would be the basis for the 2002 film “Last Call,” which aired on Showtime. Neve Campbell played Ring; Jeremy Irons, Fitzgerald.
Ring is survived by her children, Jennifer and Guy, and two granddaughters.