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Our freedoms at stake


Fear of reprisals
Peter Mayer Publisher
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The British government fairly quickly, as I recall, took a protective stance with respect to our publication of the book and Salman's life.  And I don't know at what point Mrs Thatcher's government decided to give Salman, I think, around-the-clock personal protection, and to, in the case of Penguin, to station… to cordon off the area and to station… the area of our office, and to station policemen with guard dogs there.  But that didn't calm anything.  It may have protected some people.  Salman went into hiding.  I didn't know where he was, but I did know how to contact him.

But the Muslim community got more and more excited, egged on by their leaders.  Egged on by Tehran as well, as I mentioned also earlier.  The ayatollah recaptured the faith and support of millions of Iranians by this move to ban a book they hadn't read.

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: Tehran, Salman Rushdie

Duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015