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Don't ever sell out


In search of solitude
Peter Mayer Publisher
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[Q] So you're at Orion, and publishing interesting books like If This Is ….

Ah yes, that's true, that's true, and I was called back, that period at Orion, I was called back into the army, so I did a second tour of duty this time in Fort Hood, Texas, in an army post close to Killeen, Texas, about… I don't know, I'm trying to remember now, about 150 miles from San Antonio and maybe 70 miles from Austin, Texas, which is today a great college town and the centre of Texas politics.  Very interesting place. I went to Austin a great deal, it was 70 miles away and I did something very unusual for my unit: I took an apartment in Killeen, Texas, the town.  I have no idea why because I didn't have a girlfriend in Killeen. I lived in the barracks, but I could go to this little apartment, which cost almost nothing and read and write and be by myself, instead of always in the midst of – I had completely forgotten that – I'm so glad you asked whatever question led me to this.  But I was in this tiny apartment, or maybe it was a room, as part of somebody else's apartment, where I could be by myself and read or write.  And… because in the army you always had hundreds of thousands of people around you at all times, and that, I didn't mind that in a sense of being offended by it, I just didn't like it, I needed some privacy.  I needed somehow to discover myself in the midst of all these guys. 

I did have a girlfriend actually in Austin, Texas, who I visited in Austin, Texas, the daughter of a famous University of Texas professor, who was a sculptor, Charles Umlauf, was his name.  I remember he didn't like me going out with his daughter, some soldier from the nearby base.  So the apartment was nothing to do with her; it had to do with getting away for a few hours a day when we had time off, and just quietly being able to read and not be bothered or write or think or whatever.

Peter Mayer (1936-2018) was an American independent publisher who was president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc, a New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook's founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. There, he successfully launched the trade paperback as a viable alternative to mass market and hardcover formats. From 1978 to 1996 he was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. More recently, Mayer had financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the UK.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Texas

Duration: 3 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015