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Publishing becomes political


Proud to be British
Peter Mayer Publisher
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I think Mr Blass's secretary or assistant, Betty Hartel, found us a room in The Goring Hotel in Victoria, and as we drove in a cab there… and got there, I remember as I went up the steps I saw a plaque just to the right or left saying first indoor plumbing in the United Kingdom, or it may have said in England, I don't know. And I said, my goodness, and the room was so small that there was a suitcase to the right of where Mary slept, and to the left of where I slept in the bed, which occupied 90% of the room, and when we got out of bed we would step into the suitcase.

Penguin was not in the habit, neither were most British publishers, of bringing executives to Britain, and they expected the executives to make all these arrangements themselves. Well, we would have been prepared to do so if someone had told me, but nobody told me and I imagined that British companies treated their executives the way American companies treated their executives: they do things for them to get them started at least. But nobody did anything for us, but we learnt the British way and we came to love Britain - I certainly did.

The fact that I have bought a British company, Duckworth, and the fact that we're talking inside an English flat and the fact that when I come into Heathrow I am very happy to show my British passport, it's all part of the same thing. I love my British friends and I care about the [Scottish] referendum on Thursday.

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: Britain, Penguin Books

Duration: 2 minutes, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015