26 Jul

There is news from New York that my ex-boss is dead,  a major influence on my life in the 1960s when I went over there on spec as a humble typist.    I was straight off the boat (and wearing white gloves – it was roughly the start of the MAD MEN era) and he was the founder of Basic Books, a publishing house that concentrated on science and serious non-fiction that won many prizes.    We had a brief chat then he hired me to start on Monday.    

“Is there a job?” I enquired.

He said:  “We shall see.” 


They stuck me in the accounts department, typing royalty statements, as boring as hell, and nobody uttered a word all day because they were concentrating.    Arthur had gone away for a month I was told; it was August and hot.    On his return he hauled me in, told me he’d had good reports from his  staff so promoted me to being his P.A., having fired the one who had been there eighteen years.   My brief was straightforward.   “As long as you answer my phone you can do what you like.”   And when, two years later, I came home to London, having worked in virtually every department, it was he who suggested I become a literary agent, thus setting the course of the rest of my publishing life.


Arthur Rosenthal – what a man, brilliant, dynamic and always inspiring.    Thank you for teaching me all I now know about books.  



%d bloggers like this: