Originally published February 21, 1983
IT IS NOT uncommon for NEW LEADER writers who have something penetrating to say, and a gift for saying it well, to find themselves pursued by publishers bearing book contracts. The most energetic chase we were responsible for setting off, if memory does not deceive, occurred some two decades ago when we presented a piece by a young man who was then a Congressional fellow. The biographical note accompanying the article mentioned that it was adapted from a chapter of a book the author was working on, and no fewer than five major houses quickly expressed their interest. Viking won the prize – Ronald Steel’s The End of Alliance.
More typically, an individual publisher or senior editor will come upon a piece in the magazine that sparks an idea for fuller treatment. Early one morning, to cite a random example, an excited Alfred A. Knopf telephoned. He had been reading THE NEW LEADER at 3 A.M. as was his wont, he explained, when he came across an article that especially appealed to him and he wanted to talk to the writer about doing a book related to the subject. The piece was on Brazil; the author was John Mander, actually our man in London at the time who happened to be doing some traveling. Soon an agreement was reached that culminated in dinner at the Knopf “farm” in Purchase, New York, and Mander’s well received The Unrevolutionary Society: The Power of Latin American Conservatism.
Among other publishers who have kept a sharp eye on these pages over the years, one is Knopf’s neighbor in Purchase,
Roger W. Straus J r. of Farrar, Straus, Giroux. Another is George P. Brockway of W. W. Norton and Company. So we couldn’t resist a few thoughts on things coming full circle upon hearing the news that is the occasion for our comments here: Harper and Row has signed Brockway to do a book inspired by his column appearing in alternate issues of the NL, “The Dismal Science.”
As readers of this space know, Norton’s Chairman of the Board came to his present avocation out of frustration with inflation, high interest rates and Federal Reserve policy. That started his “reading everything I could get my hands on” in an area previously of little formal interest to him. His new preoccupation also resulted in a spate of pieces that drew unusual attention, and led-in the NL of January 11, 1982 – to the launching of the column that has consistently attracted even greater response.
An item in Publishers Weekly reports that Brockway’s book will be published under the Cornelia and Michael Bessie imprint, and continues: “Mike Bessie says the work is ‘intelligible economics’; the author says it’s ‘quirky and offbeat.'” We would say both are right, as Brockway’s thoughts on “Frictional Unemployment,” coming up in our next issue, will again demonstrate.
OUR COVER drawing of Michael Straight, whose new book happens to published by Norton, is by Claudia Fouse.