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The last ride


A student by day, a cab driver by night
Peter Mayer Publisher
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During the years before I was a publisher, and when I was a graduate student, and even after I was a graduate student, I was a sailor also.  I was in the Merchant Marine.  But in this period when I was, I think, in graduate school, or studying, I think, comparative literature at Indiana.  But only, not… can't remember anymore what my academic life was while I was driving a cab at night.  And I don't even recall any longer how I came to drive a cab at night, but I must have known somebody who was doing that, who was my age.  And what was good about it was - I never liked authority very much -and you were by yourself in the cab so you had a degree of freedom.  Of course, you had to bring in money for the cab drive, for the cab company.

But I, so, I got my hackman's license, which was not difficult to get.  You had to pass a test on New York City to get your hackman's license, but it was not so difficult.  It would say: where is Yankee Stadium?  And so, you would say: the Bronx.  They might then say: how do you get there?  And you would tell them how you got there.  And they asked 20 or 30 questions about famous places.  Anyway, I did well enough to get my hackman's license.  A hackman's license is about yea big and has your picture on it, in which everybody looks like a felon, including me.

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: student, cab, freedom, hackman’s license

Duration: 1 minute, 56 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015