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The Time of Their Lives: The Golden Age of Great American Book Publishers, Their Editors and Authors Hardcover – September 16, 2008


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From upstarts like Barney Rosset's Grove Press to stalwarts like Harper (in various incarnations) under the decades-long direction of Cass Canfield, the great houses of what Silverman sees as publishing's heyday are nostalgically portrayed, from the end of WWII through the early 1980s. Silverman, former longtime head of the Book-of-the-Month Club, calls his book a love letter to editors, and though he's frank about people's foibles (like Alfred and Blanche Knopf's mercurial tempers), the tone is largely sentimental. Based on interviews with all the principals, he recounts feats of editorial genius, like how Tom McCormack made All Things Great and Small a blockbuster, which also made St. Martin's a publishing force. And there are stories about the ones that got away (Simon Michael Bessie passed on Lolita), the struggles of women to move up the editorial ladder and the dissolution of great editorial teams as money got tight and houses were sold. It's difficult to see the book's appeal to industry outsiders, but for insiders in a difficult publishing era, it's a delight to share these recollections of the days before Wall Street ruled Publishers Row. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Of course, Al Silverman is both a ‘bookman’ par excellence and also the ultimate publishing insider, so it almost goes without saying that he is exactly the right person to write the story of book publishing since the Second World War, in the now bygone age of independent publishers and bigger-than-life editors. With world-class total recall, a clear eye, and a nice sense of humor, he brings back to life the publishers, the authors, the agents, and the editors who have filled his life, and whose personalities, often odd and marvelous, make his book a must for anyone who loves books and the world of book publishing.”

---Michael Korda, author of Charmed Lives, Another Life, and Ike

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Truman Talley Books; First Edition edition (September 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312350031
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312350031
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on October 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author has had a long and distinguished career in American publishing, including being president of the Book-of-the-Month Club and an editor, and seems to know personally about everybody engaged in American publishing between 1946 and the early 1980's. It is his contention that the post-war period until the early 1980's was at least as much a golden age of publishing as were the 1920's and 1930's with figures such as the legendary Max Perkins. Whether or not one agrees entirely with this assertion, the book does focus upon an extremely fascinating period and group of folks. The author simply went out and interviewed 120 "eyewitnesses" who had been engaged in publishing during this period at a variety of publishers: Knopf, Atheneum, Viking, Doubleday, Harper, and Little Brown to name just a few are discussed in individual chapters. The major paperback houses also are included. Because the author was interviewing his "own", he is just wonderful at filling out his pictures of what publishing was and how it operated during this period with insiders' perspectives. My only problem with the book, which despite its nearly 500 page length moves quickly, is that it is hard to keep all the large cast of characters and companies straight as you pass through the chapters. I also longed for a bit more of an explanation of exactly how editors "edit." His portraits of some key players, such as Alfred A. Knopf, Robert Gottlieb, and George Braziller, add enormously to the richness of the narrative. A small bibliography and some interesting photographs are included, as well as a solid index. A valuable book that is also quite interesting to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Cheryl Nunn on January 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Anyone interested in the history and operations of the book publishing world from the 40's to the modern era should read this book. Learn how the major houses were built and who lead them, how they brought on their best talent and how some lost them! Their rejections are always more interesting than their bestsellers :)
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Discovered a lot of interesting facts about the publishing business. It took a lot of talent, know how and hard work to survive and stay in the black ink. I love to read just thought it would be interesting to see how it all starts and what's involved from writer to the finished product.
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By Anthony L. on October 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
loved it
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By gordon saks on November 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I read this book when it first was published and compared to the recently published HOTHOUSE about FS&G, Al Silvermans book is a
wonderful overview of the origination of the book publishing houses that began after WW11, and were eventually sold and/or consolidated into
the mega-conglomorates that exist today, and whom have taken the "spice" and originality out of the profession.
This book portrays the wonderful and sometimes eccentric "heads of houses", and gives the reader a genuine look at what they had accomplished.
I had the honor of being in the publishing field during the '60's until 2000, and knew, and worked for, and was aware of many of the personalities described in this
wonderful memoir of a never to be replicated era.
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