a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Summoned to see the boss


Re-publishing Michael Gold's Jews Without Money
Peter Mayer Publisher
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

Curiously, I think none of us were married or in very serious relationships so we were always there till six o'clock and seven o'clock and eight o'clock at night and we worked our asses off, and we did a lot of good. And we surprised some of the larger companies, and certainly surprised the Hearst Corporation because we published books that they had no interest in even knowing about. One of them was, Michael Gold's, famous book... well, famous, well, famous and notorious book at some level, Jews Without Money, which was published in 1929 by Horace Liveright. In fact, it was after Call It Sleep was published that I was looking for some other book from that period to rediscover, so to speak, and that book was out of print and I knew it. It was not a very good novel, but actually it was echt, it was authentic and there was something attractively unattractive about the title, Jews Without Money. It was counter-intuitive or against the grain or vulgar without being vulgar, and… So I acquired the rights and then I asked an unknown young socialist who I'd been reading in newspapers and magazines named Michael Harrington, who either knew the book or didn't know the book and perhaps I introduced the book to him, I don't know, if he would write an introduction to it because nobody knew this book at all.

But it was a great book as a sort of document if you like of the American Labour Movement of the immigrants as well. Unlike, Call It Sleep, which was a book of true literary merit, this book had merit also, but of a more documentary sort; Michael Gold was really not a novelist. And I remember publishing the book and it sold reasonably well. It got some attention, and then one day I was taking the subway to work, and I was a strap-hanger for years and years and I learned how to fold The New York Times and I folded it to the obituary page, because people dying interested me almost as much as people living, and there it was on Sunday, it said Michael Gold had died. So I read the obituary.

I'd never met him, but I had had some correspondence with him. He had died on the, if I recall, on the San Francisco waterfront. I think he was a retired longshoreman, I believe. He was a real working man. I think he also, in addition to being a working man in the language of that time, the proletariat, I think he wrote for Max Eastman's The New Masses at that time, not too sure of that any longer, but in any case it said his most famous book was, Jews Without Money, Horace Liveright, 1929, Hearst Corporation, 19 whatever that year was, the year he died, and it said that he'd been a communist in the 30s. But unlike other people after the Hitler-Stalin pact of '38 or '39, when so many communists in the United States renounced their communism because they couldn't believe that the Soviet Union, which was thought to be the wave of the future, could make a pact with Adolf Hitler. I could go on about that, but I won't. Well, Michael Gold had stayed a communist, the obituary said, and he'd been a steadfast communist, and he was till the day he died.

Well, I then turned to the sports pages and then I turned to whatever may have been happening that was awful in the world and I came to work.

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: Jews Without Money, Michael Gold

Duration: 5 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015