a PAW web exclusive column
Getting literary feet in the door
'50's new Internet publishing venture seeks quality material out
of the mainstream
By Rob MacKay '89
Dick Purdue '50 practices
-- and publishes -- what he preaches. The 73-year-old coauthor of
the personal testimonial Aging Defiantly works as many as 60 hours/seven
days a week and still finds time to climb an Adirondack or New Hampshire
mountain every other day. So it's no wonder that after a lifetime
of resenting the large printing houses of the world, he simply started
his own Internet book publishing business (www.SuperiorBooks.com)
in April of 2000.
"The whole industry
is not meeting the needs of good readers and writers," says
the Woodrow Wilson School graduate with conviction. "Established
companies only look to publish books by celebrities, and then there's
a new breed of vanity publishers, who almost exclusively produce
books without concern for their literary quality. There's immense
talent out there, but quality writers are having a hard time getting
their foot in the door. That's where we come in, we help authors
into the mainstream."
Working with his wife
of 50 years, Peggy (his coauthor on Aging Defiantly), mostly out
of their home in Indian Lake, New York (population: 1,500), Purdue
will have put 25 books into circulation by this summer. The niche
that he is trying to carve is that of a place where an unknown author
can get started or a controversial book can get published. Presently
available is Why the Holocaust Happened: Its Religious Cause &
Scholarly Cover-up, by Eric Zuesse. This tome contends that Adolph
Hitler was a fundamental Catholic who based many of the Third Reich's
anti-Semitic policies on passages from the Bible.
"It's a very well-documented
book and a profoundly newsworthy topic," says Purdue. "It
deserves to be read. But no large publishers wanted to take the
risk. We did, and we almost got the writer on CNN, but they scratched
the interview at the last second saying they didn't want to push
works include Exploring Classical Music, by Robert Finn, a music
critic from the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, Baseball's Greatest
Players by David Shiner, a book of poetry by Graal Braun called
Wormwood and Whines and Dead Meat, a young adult/parents book about
gang culture by Dale Alger.
The wide range of topics
Purdue publishes seems appropriate for a man whose career features
one-year stints with the Foreign Service and the CIA, as well as
a term in the 1960s as mayor of Ossining, New York, and 18 years
as town supervisor and county legislator at his present home. He
also built homes from scratch. Now he and Peggy read manuscripts
edit, deal with printers and distributors, proofread, fact-check
and even work on titles. "I first retired in 1942 and ended
up working harder than ever at different projects," he says.
"I just retired again [from local politics in 1998] and now
I'm working harder still."
Purdue says that Joseph
Conrad is his favorite author, but his tastes are varied. He encourages
any person with a manuscript to send it his way -- it is free of
charge. "We look at everything and judge solely on quality,"
he says. "We're also willing to work with you. You could probably
say that we're eccentric, but not to the point of being annoying."
Rob MacKay, is an editor
at Timesnewsweekly, a weekly newspaper in Queens, New York. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org