December 15, 2017
Dick Simon and Gentlemen-PublishersOn this day in 1960, Richard Simon, co-founder of Simon & Schuster, died. According to the 1999 memoir Another Life, by present S&S editor-in-chief, Michael Korda, Dick Simon was the dark-and-dashing half of the team, with Max Schuster the befuddled semi-intellectual. The two launched the company in 1924, taking a very successful gamble with the publication of the first crossword puzzle book; by the 50s, a third partner, Leon Shimkin of Pocket Books, had joined them, making S&S part of the paperback revolution and, says Korda, a house divided:
S&S spent 5-10 times more on promotion than most competitors, and Korda's snapshots of life around the office show the struggle between books and commerce to have been decided pretty early on. His book also shows Korda himself on the winning and losing side, depending on your page. One anecdote has him meeting his boss Henry Simon, younger brother of Dick, while on his way home with "several manuscripts and a sizable chunk of the Durants'." This prompted Henry to recall going home similarly burdened, and meeting his very unburdened brother in the elevator: "Dick stared at Henry's load and chuckled. Pointing to Henry, he said, in mock Indian, 'You, editor.' Then pointing to his thin portfolio, he said, 'Me, publisher.'" A different sort of anecdote has Korda complicit in the publication of a Harold Robbins novel that the author would not change, though the plot and even names of the characters in the second half did not seem to relate to those in the first. "I've been working my ass off to write these books for years, trying to figure out plots and characters," growled Robbins, "Let the readers do some work for a change." This was a long way and a lot of money from Korda's first day at S&S, when he arrived to see a cast bronze plaque designed by Dick Simon on his desk, as it was on all other desks: "Give the reader a break."
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