Web Exclusives:Features
a PAW web exclusive column

March 21, 2001:
Getting literary feet in the door
Dick Purdue '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 any buttons."

Other www.SuperiorBooks.com 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 robertazo@hotmail.com