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Among the Literati

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Charles Yale Harrison, whose Semitic face belies his Americanized name, had a most amazing encounter with William Randolph Hearst. It happened some years ago, after the publication of Harrison’s first novel, “Generals Die in Bed”. The author, who looks like a literate gangster conscious of his superiority, had been enjoying a young author’s usual woes. No American publisher had been interested in his book. A British firm had accepted the manuscript and very cleverly sold the American rights over here. To the amazement of everyone but the author, the book became a good seller.

Enter the prince in the person of Mr. Hearst! One day, ambling through the then-crowded aisles of Macy’s book department, he saw Harrison’s book, bought it, read it and liked it. His battery of desk push-buttons was put into action. He instructed his hirelings to buy the serial rights for his papers and to find the author. The entire organization went into action. As the book was originally published in England the searchers thought Harrison was a Briton and cables were dispatched to that isle. Germany was mentioned in the book, cables were sent and, again, no results.. Finally Harrison was located, practically around the corner; he was discovered as he sat behind a little battered desk in the office of the Bronx Home News, in New York, diligently pecking out notes about people of practically no importance. The telephone at his desk rang out, a soft but commanding voice at the other end of the wire spoke, “Mr. Hearst would like to see you immediately.”

When Harrison was ushered into The Presence, he was greeted warmly. The publisher told him how much he had enjoyed his book, informed him that he had bought the serial rights and laid before Harrison a book containing the plans for a gigantic advertising campaign for Harrison and his book.

Hearst noticed that his guest was unusually sad-eyed and wan, that he was showing little enthusiasm. Hearst was puzzled and asked the reason. Harrison explained his plight; here he was about to become a famous man and he was broke, his contract with the English publisher meant little in a financial way, his job paid almost nothing, and he had a family to support. Hearst frowned and shifted his long frame towards his push buttons. He pressed one vigorously and sat back. A moment later the door of his office opened and a bald, eagle-beaked middle-aged man entered. He was Hearst’s managing director. “Yes chief,” was his greeting. Hearst pointed at Harrison. “Give him a job;” he paused for a moment. “Pay him” — another pause—”$200 a week; no, make it $250.” The prince had spoken; nobody who had given him even an hour of pleasure must be in want! The interview was over.

The rest of the story is equally fantastic. Harrison was given a job on the New York American. His first assignment was to take a month’s vacation with pay. When he returned he was told not to overwork himself. For eight months he reported daily either by phone or in person to the editor. During that period he got his check regularly and was sent out on only two assignments. Finally he received a notice that his services were no longer required. Secretly Harrison was relieved. The inactivity was becoming boring and he felt slightly guilty but the boys around the paper explained to him that this was Hearst’s way. Harrison had not been amply rewarded for his book and this was the Hearst method of making the score even.

Harrison is now at work on another novel which will be published in the Fall. You can bet a gold piece that William Randolph Hearst will receive one of the first copies off the press.

The perils of publishing—Robert Nathan, that gentle writer of gentle books whose “One More Spring” recently reached the best-seller class, wrote a string of novels and had three publishers before he hit the mark. . . . For some reason or other Lewis Mumford, the critic and writer is often listed among the Jewish authors. Another mistake, the only thing Jewish around Mumford is his wife. . . . When the Brentano bankruptcy mess clears up you will find that the old bookish Arthur Brentano, one of the original founders, will again be president but the syndicate that will buy the business will place another Jew in the role of buyer and vice-president. . . . The Boni brothers, who left Boni & Live-right to form their own firm, are trying to get the Liveright name back again. Another group is trying to induce Horace Liveright to run the business again.

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