Michael Korda
Michael Korda
Another Life: A Memoir of Other People
ISBN: 0679456597
Another Life: A Memoir of Other People
In his remarkable new memoir, at once frank, audacious, canny, and revealing, Michael Korda, the author of Charmed Lives and Queenie, does for the world of books what Moss Hart did for the theater in Act One, and succeeds triumphantly in making publishing seem as exciting (and as full of great characters) as the stage.

Here is a memoir that reads like a novel, sweeping the reader into another life on a tide of energy, wit, and a seemingly inexhaustible flow of marvelous anecdotes.

Another Life is not just an adventure—the engaging and often hilarious story of a young man making his career—but the insider's story of how a cottage industry metamorphosed into a big business, with sometimes alarming results for all concerned.

Korda writes with grace, humor, and a shrewd eye, not only about himself and his rise from a lowly (but not humble) assistant editor reading the "slush pile" of manuscripts to a famous editor in chief of a major publishing house, but also about the celebrities and writers with whom he worked over four decades.

Here are portraits—rare, intimate, always keenly observed—of such larger-than-life figures as Ronald Reagan, affable and good-natured but the most reluctant of authors, struggling with his "ghosted" presidential autobiography; Richard Nixon, seen here as a genial, if bizarrely detached, host; superagent Irving Lazar, pursuing his endless deals and dreams of "class"; retired Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, the last of the old-time dons, laboring over his own version of his life in his desert retreat; Joan Crawford, giving Korda her rules for successful living; and countless other greats, near greats, and would-be greats.

Here too are famous writers, sometimes eccentric, sometimes infuriating, sometimes lost souls, captured memorably by someone who was close to them for years: Graham Greene, in pursuit of his FBI file and a Nobel Prize; Tennessee Williams, wrestling unsuccessfully with his demons; Jacqueline Susann, facing and conquering the dreaded "second-novel syndrome" after the stunning success of Valley of the Dolls; Harold Robbins (who had to be guarded under lock and key and made to finish his novels), struggling to keep the IRS at bay from the deck of his yacht; Carlos Castaneda, at his most sorcerously charming, described—at last—in detail, as he really was, by one of the few people who knew him well; not to mention Richard Adams, Will and Ariel Durant, Susan Howatch, S. J. Perelman, Fannie Hurst, Larry McMurtry, and many, many more.

And here as well is a rich cast of major publishing figures, beginning with the marvelously peculiar M. Lincoln Schuster and his partner, Richard L. Simon—father of Carly—and including just about everybody who is or was anybody in the world of boook publishing: For Another Life is also a business story, tracing the rise and fall of great names and explaining just what happened when "Publishers' Row" collided with Wall Street, transforming modest (if world-famous) businesses into multibillion-dollar book conglomerates.

Parts of this book that have appeared in The New Yorker over the years have brought Korda great acclaim—the chapter about Jacqueline Susann has been made into a major motion picture. Here at last, entertaining and provocative and always hugely readable, is the whole story—a book as engaging and full of life as Korda's highly acclaimed memoir of his family, Charmed Lives, about which Irwin Shaw wrote: "I don't know when I have enjoyed a book more."
—from the publisher's website

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TRANSCRIPT
Another Life: A Memoir of Other People
Program Air Date: July 11, 1999

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Michael Korda, author of "Another Life: A Memoir of Other People," how long have you been with Simon & Schuster?
Mr. MICHAEL KORDA (Author, "Another Life: A Memoir of Other People"): Forty-one years.
LAMB: What's your current job?
Mr. KORDA: I'm still editor-in-chief. I've been editor-in-chief for 31 years. I can't go any higher, and it would be embarrassing to everybody if I were demoted lower. So I think I'm stuck at this rank.
LAMB: When did you first meet Graham Greene?
Mr. KORDA: I was 14 going on 15, probably in 1948 or '49, on my Uncle Alex's yacht in the south of France. My Uncle Alex, the big Alexander Korda, the founder of the British motion picture industry, though, of course, he was Hungarian. And Graham came across--I was lost in this kind of adult party which included all sorts of celebrated people, and Graham, this very tall Englishman with protuberant eyes, came across and gave me a martini, which totally anestheti--anesthetized me, for which I was enormously grateful.

Afterwards, we became, oddly enough, very close friends. Graham Greene was wonderful with young people and adolescents. And since he couldn't drive, I volunteered to be his driver in my--I had a Lexus, little two-seat sports car, though I didn't, of course, have a license at that age. And I would take him all over the south of France and together we went, I think, probably to every brothel in Cannes and Nice, because he thought that would be good training for me and that I was exactly at the right age to benefit from it. I think he was right, actually.

More important, Graham made me appreciative of just what a wonderful profession it is to be a writer, because every morning he would get up at six at morning and sit down in the shade on the deck of the--and take out of his pocket a little leather-bound notebook, about so--so big, gold-edged, of the kind you'd buy at expensive stationery stores, and a fountain pen. He would uncap his fountain pen and he would write in tiny, tiny little scram--like somebody writing the Bible on--on the head of a pin. And he would write by some complicated count of his own exactly 500 words, and on the 500th word, even if it was in the middle of a sentence, he'd stop, put the notebook away, screw up his fountain pen and say, `Right, let's have breakfast and begin the day.' And he did that every day seven days a week.

And I thought to myself, `What a wonderful profession. It's over by 7:30 in the morning.' Of course, I was wrong, because the rest of the day for a novelist is work, too. Graham observed, noted, took into his mind people, events, places, used them all. But for me, there was this wonderful experience of dealing with somebody who quietly and by himself every morning simply wrote exactly 500 words.
LAMB: How did you go on then to be his editor?
Mr. KORDA: Well, that came about because he'd been published for some years by Viking Press. And when he wrote "Travels With My Aunt," which is one of his two funny books, the other one being "Our Man in Havana," Tom Ginsberg, who then owned and ran Viking, sent the manuscript to Playboy for first serial. And the Playboy editors wrote back and said they liked the book but they thought that the title was kind of a feat. And the more Tom thought about it, the more a feat it seemed to him. So he gathered all the Viking editors together in a, quote, "brainstorming," unquote, session to come up with new titles for it. And they came up with a dozen titles or so and he sent them to Graham Greene, who was then in Antibes. And Graham sent back a memorable cable which read, `Easier change publisher than title. Greene.' And the very next day, his agent rang me and said, `Graham wants to come to Simon & Schuster.' And I was delighted to have him, and he stayed at Simon & Schuster for many, many years and we remained very close friends. It is still good advice, `Don't give literary authors suggestions for changing the titles.'
LAMB: Why couldn't he get an American visa?
Mr. KORDA: He'd been briefly a member of the British Communist Party as an Oxford undergraduate. Graham always said he'd done it as a prank, and that may be true, actually, or it may not have been true. But in any case, it was not a significant thing to have done necessarily in the 1920s and a great many people did it. He could have had an American visa if he applied for an extension visa in which he swore that he had been a member of the Communist Party but nevertheless wanted to enter the United States. He refused to do that because he thought it was demeaning. He did come to the United States, however, without anybodies having noticed in part of the--as part of the Panamanian delegation of Omar Torrijos, and there's a wonderful photograph of him standing behind Jimmy Carter in the White House, this tall Englishman in the Panamanian delicate--delegation, without anybody apparently having said, `But isn't that Graham Greene?' which tells you all you need to know about the Carter White House.
LAMB: How did--why was he there? What was their pretense?
Mr. KORDA: He was a great friend of Torrijos. He developed--Graham loved, as he used to say, dangerous places on the far edge of things. He was a friend of Castro's. He traveled to Vietnam, famously, of course, because it was there that he wrote "The Quiet American." He liked to be where things were happening in a revolutionary and political sense and where there was a whiff of danger. And he was sympathetic, by and large to people of the left as opposed to people of the right.
LAMB: What year did he die?
Mr. KORDA: A sympathy which I share. Do you know that I can't remember now? But it's certainly more than 15 years ago. I miss him enormously.
LAMB: You wrote in the middle of your book--and I wrote it down--you say you have a lack of interest in politics.
Mr. KORDA: True.
LAMB: But you just said that you consider yourself a man of the left.
Mr. KORDA: I like to feel surrounded by people who are sympathetic to humanity in general, and I'm uncomfortable with totalitarians, whether it's in business or whether it's in politics. I'm not a Republican or a Democrat in the sense of having a fixed political point of view, partly because I'm as much English as I am American. But I'm certainly--I think of myself as wanting to be on the side of the underdog, if only because I inherited that both from Graham and from my father and from my Uncle Zoltan, who--with movies like "Cry, The Beloved Country," came out very early on for a liberal point of view, as we now call it, but as it was not known then. I also think that, genuinely speaking, the smarter and the more interesting people and the prettier girls are usually on the left.
LAMB: How--how many years did you spend in Great Britain?
Mr. KORDA: Well, I was born there. And then...
LAMB: Wh--what year?
Mr. KORDA: 1933, an excellent year for port. Bu--I was bor--and also, the--the--the--the opening of my uncle's famous motion picture, "The Private Lives of Henry VIII," in which my mother played and my Aunt Joan and my Aunt Ir--Merle--Merle Oberon, and my father did the set direction and my Uncle Zoltan did the cutting and my Uncle Alex produced and directed. And I was born on the opening night. So 1933 was a significant moment for our family in many ways. I think I was the least significant part of it.

I stayed in England till '41, when my father came over to the United States because it was impossible to finish "The Thief of Baghdad" and "Jungle Book" in England. There simply was no studio space, as it was taken over for war production and a huge amount of money had been invested in these films. He went back to England in '42 or '3 and I stayed on here till '47, I think, with my mother, and then went back to England in--and--and lived there until 1958.
LAMB: Why did you come back here?
Mr. KORDA: Couldn't think of what to do with myself in England. You know, I--I--by the time I came back to England, and particularly since I went to school in Switzerland rather than England, I never felt myself, once I got back, to be altogether in the right place. I had lost my English accent and not quite acquired an American accent. And I always seemed to be sort of out of focus wherever I was. So I thought that problem might be solved by coming back to America. Actually, my first attempt at solving that problem was to go to the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. When that did not solve the question of where I was going to live and where I was--what I was going to do, I decided to come to New York and, as it were, try for a whole new life in the United States. Mr.
LAMB: What do you mean, you went to the Hungarian Revolution of 1956? Mr. KORDA: Well, I'd grown up, you know, surrounded by friends of my father's, like Bob Capa, the famous Hungarian combat photographer. And my father had a dramatic life during the First World War and in the years that followed it in Hungary, as did my Uncle Zoltan and as did my Uncle Alex. So I grew up around people who had enormously exciting lives and in, as it were, the backwash of the Spanish Civil War, which was a important event within my family. And I always felt deprived of that, even though I'd spent two and a half years in the Royal Air Force. I felt deprived of that kind of involvement in dramatic politics and events. So when I could sense, as anybody could, the Hungarian Revolution building force after the problems in Poland--and it first began to break out, I went to Hungary in order to bring medical supplies to the hospital and to act as a stretcher bearer in what was already becoming fairly violent combat, and stayed on through the entire revolution, coming back to England, I think, in mid- to late November.
LAMB: Any impact on you?
Mr. KORDA: Oh, enormous, enormous. First of all, it was--even though I'd spent two and a half years in the war, and that was before going up to Oxford, it was an enormous kind of shock of reality. I mean, up till now, I had been a very bookish child, even though I grew up surrounded by celebrities and famous people. Nevertheless--and I think because of that, I was very drawn to books, to an interior life, because so much glamorous was happening around me and because my parents and everybody around them were far too busy to take any notice of children, so I became--I'm sorry--a great, great reader. And I was taken out of that slightly by the experience of serving in the RAF, but going to Hungary was, of course, a brutal collision with reality and, in that sense, very good for me. Graham Greene had told me when I asked his advice as to whether I should go to Hungary that I absolutely should go because he said--and he meant it absolutely--that, `Nothing is better for a young man than to hear the sound of bullets whistling past your ears.' And that's a very romantic point of view, but it's not altogether untrue. If you're going to do it, you might as well get it out of your system and over with before you start work, and I did.
LAMB: Which book, "Another Life," is this for you?
Mr. KORDA: You mean in terms of numbers?
LAMB: Yes.
Mr. KORDA: Either my 11th or 12th. I--I think it's my 12th.
LAMB: When somebody buys this book, what's in it?
Mr. KORDA: First of all, it's not called "A Memoir of Other People" for nothing. Anybody reading this book will get to know as much as they can possibly want to know about me, but I'm in the background, Zelig-like. The focus is on people like Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon, Graham Greene, Larry McMurtry, Carlos Castaneda, Joan Crawford, Jackie Susann, Harold Robbins, Irving Wallace. The people that I published are what the book is really about. In addition, it's the entire story of what happened when book publishing changed from being a cartid--a cottage industry of small companies run by people who like to think that it was an occupation for gentlemen, to being a big, big, multibillion-dollar business and how those changes took place and what the consequences of them are.
LAMB: What are the l--the imprints that you have under Simon & Schuster?
Mr. KORDA: Well, Simon & Schuster--actually, like the--the frog that blew itself up, at one point was this enormous international publishing corporation that was worth $5 billion. Now we've sold off everything but the core company which does trade books, so we've gone in a kind of parody of the American view, from being a small company to a huge company to a relatively medium-sized company. But we now include Simon & Schuster itself, Scribner, Free Press, Pocketbooks and a number of smaller imprints.
LAMB: Who owns it?
Mr. KORDA: Viacom, the entertainment giant.
LAMB: And how many owners have you had?
Mr. KORDA: Well, in my 41 years of working at Simon & Schuster, in fact, we've only had four, which is not so terrible. And one of them was for a long period of time, Gulf plus Western, Charlie Bluhdorn's corporation, and then--actually, there's a whole chapter in "Another Life" on Charlie Bluhdorn as the--the mad Austrian conglomerateur, which I think is one of the funniest chapters in the book. It's ironic that this is the only memoir in the history of writing memoirs where one chapter, the one on Jackie Susann, which is called Isn't She Great?, has already been made into a major motion picture, starring Bette Midler as Jackie and Nathan Lane as Irving Mansfield, her husband, and David Hyde Pierce as me. But if I had been combing through this book in order to make a movie, it is the chapter on Charlie Bluhdorn that I would have pi--would have picked out. I thought he was a wonderful larger-than-life figure, and I think I've really captured him in all his craziness. I actually o--enjoyed being owned by Charlie Bluhdorn when he was alive.
LAMB: He's dead?
Mr. KORDA: He's now dead.
LAMB: He's--or he die--he was 56 years old when he...
Mr. KORDA: When he died--well, he burned himself out.
LAMB: What year was it?
Mr. KORDA: I'm bad at answering that kind of question.
LAMB: Maybe 10 years ago or...
Mr. KORDA: It would have been in ni--oh, no, much more like 15, maybe 20.
LAMB: What was he like?
Mr. KORDA: He was wonderful. He was--he was this crazed, raving Austrian. You know, he would come into a room--whenever The New York Times wrote a bad piece about him, he would call all of us together, all the executives of the--of the Gulf plus Western Corporation, this giant corporation would be gathered in a movie theater in the bowels of the--of--of the Gulf plus Western building in New York City, in Columbus Circle, and he would--he would read aloud these pieces from The New York Times and he would tear The New York Times up and fling the pieces out to the audience and shout, `You hear that? You hear what they say about--you hear what they say about you? Hear that? They're wrong. They're wrong. They're wrong.' And he'd tear these pieces like confetti and throwing them up.

And he loved to have meetings, too, which a--all the executives would gather and one executive would be spotlit. And he would then be on the grill, and Bluhdorn would ask him these terrible questions. `How come you lost money? How come you lost money? Tell us why you lost money.' And he--he was--he was marvelous. I mean, because the good side of him was the energy, the enthusiasm, the drive. If he--if you s--came to him with an idea that--that he liked, he was unstoppable. He could be, of course, exasperating, terrible, awful.
LAMB: How--how did you know when he didn't like you?
Mr. KORDA: Well, when he didn't like you, he showed it. He'd say--he'd say, `Get him away from me. Keep him out. Get him out of me--get him out of here. Get him out of the room.' He couldn't--I mean, it was instant. It was instant like or dislike. I liked him instantly, and I guess he liked me because actually, he saw much more of me than he needed to see. And I think he felt a sort of connection. You know, his own past was mysterious, but Bluhdorn was a kind of Austrian-Czech immigrant. There was a whole mystery about whether he was an Austrian-Czech-Jewish refugee or not Jewish and, you know, you--I--you could never figure out exactly what he was, but he came from the same part of the world as my family, in the sense of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Danube. So there was a kind of fellow feeling that he had for me and he treated me, actually, very, very well.

I described in the book his secretary phoning me and saying, `Mr. Bluhdorn wants to see you. Would he--would you meet him for dinner tomorrow night at'--what I heard to be The Saint Tropez. And I said, `I'd love to, but I--frankly, I don't know of a single restaurant in New York called The Saint Tropez. Where is it?' She said, `No, no. It's Saint-Tropez, France. Your tickets for the Concorde are waiting for you, and you're to meet him in Saint-Tropez tomorrow night.' I flew all the way out to Saint-Tropez in the south of France to have dinner with Charlie Bluhdorn. Had dinner with Charlie Bluhdorn, which I described in the book as a hilariously funny and elaborate dinner, and flew back the next day to New York, and nobody even knew I had been out of New York. And Charlie was like that. He would--if he wanted to see you, that's it. You were on the plane and you would get to see him.
LAMB: Who was Simon and who was Schuster?
Mr. KORDA: Max Schuster, although his full name is M. Lincoln Schuster, and Richard Simon, whose full name was Richard L. Simon--this is important because until Bob Gottlieb, the editor, enfant terrible, boy genius of Simon & Schuster, who was my mentor when I arrived there in 1958, arrived on the scene as a celebrity editor. Nobody in book publishing could exist without a middle initial. Everybody was Max Lincoln Schuster, Richard L. Simon. Bob Gottlieb was the first person to eliminate the middle initial, a major step forward in the history of book publishing. Dick Simon had been a piano salesman and Max Schuster had been a seller--or, not a seller, he published a magazine about used automobile parts. And they met and they--they managed to borrow $8,000 from their relatives and founded Simon & Schuster. And it's a measure of what book publishing was like in the 1920s, that $8,000--mind you, $8,000 then would be a lot more money today. But still, it wasn't a fortune. They managed with $8,000 to start a book publishing company and make it tick, make it survive. Their first big book was a huge best-seller 'cause they published the first book of crossword puzzles.

And Henry Simon, my first boss at Simon & Schuster, who was Richard Simon's younger brother, Henry's jo--first job in publishing was buying the pencils that were to be attached to each of the crossword puzzle book because the big gimmick of the first crossword puzzle book was that there was a string with a pencil attached so you could just pick it up and start working on it. And the booksellers wouldn't carry them 'cause they said the pencil made it a novelty, showing that even then, way back in the 1920s, the booksellers were just as slow to catch on as they are today.
LAMB: How many books a year do you-all publish now?
Mr. KORDA: Three, 400, I should think, in hardcover. God knows how many in paperback--lots.
LAMB: How many of those are fiction and how many non-fiction?
Mr. KORDA: Probably a third fiction. Exactly the same mix that has been true of almost every publishing house since the beginning of time.
LAMB: At one point in your book, you say that you print twice as many books for every one sold.
Mr. KORDA: I should think that's about right.
LAMB: Why is that?
Mr. KORDA: During the Depression, when the bookstores looked as if they were going to go under completely, Simon & Schuster was the first house to suggest that they could be kept in business by making the books returnable. Any books they didn't sell, they could send back for full credit. When the Depression was over and the bookstores began to recover a certain amount of prosperity, nobody could undo what had been done. So now we are still stuck with the same problem, even though the booksellers are now multibillion-dollar giants, that existed in the 1920s after the Depression, which is we send the books out, and a certain percentage of them come back. The average is probably not 50 percent, but more like 30 percent or 35 percent. But still, it's a lot of books. And on some books, if you've ju--judged wrong, 80 percent or 90 percent of them can come back. In fact, sometimes it seems to me that we get more books back than we printed.
LAMB: Now sprinkled throughout your--I must say, I--I'm anxious to hear you tell this story. Throughout your book is--and I'll hold it up so the audience can see, if you--those of--who've ever subscribed to the Book of the Month Club or one of these clubs will find that, you know, you have choice of books you get for a dollar. And I think this is--or maybe--I don't remember what it is, $29.95.
Mr. KORDA: I don't know what they do now. They used to give them away. I think you got the whole set...
LAMB: Yeah.
Mr. KORDA: ...if you joined the Book of the Month Club. I don't know that they still do that.
LAMB: This is number 11...
Mr. KORDA: Yes.
LAMB: ...of 11-volume history, "Story of Civilization," by Will and Ariel Durant.
Mr. KORDA: Well, they died before they could get to number 12, but they got it as far as number 11, and that's kind of a miracle. If you'd hold it up the other way, people will get some sense of how...
LAMB: Of how...
Mr. KORDA: ...big it is.
LAMB: Yes. There it is.
Mr. KORDA: Lot of words. I edited...
LAMB: There they are on the back. Well, there we go.
Mr. KORDA: I think I edited volumes 7 through 11 of the Durant's history of civilization, and there they are, indeed. Ariel Durant is the one on the right with the pageboy, and Will is the more serious looking one with the mustache, although--you know, they began to resemble each other in later life so that it was sometimes difficult to tell which was which except for the mustache. They were--they were quite remarkable, indefatigable. They pursued fact, theory, historical tidbits, philosophy. The books are quite incredible. However, they taught me a lesson early on in my publishing career, which is, first of all, if there is a huge important author--and the Durants were then very important authors, indeed, to Simon & Schuster--and they are given to a very junior assistant editor, there's a reason for it, and the reason is that nobody else wants to deal with them.

The second is that although "The Story of Civilization" and Durants' other books had made them very rich, indeed, they were in a state of constant rage at how--which they had made the publisher. So that the very first time I met them was at a cocktail party given by the Schusters in their elegant apartment in the Pulitzer mansion in New York. And the Schusters' claim to fame was that they owned this painting they had bought a Claesz, I think it was, and it was the cornerstone of their collection of paintings and their claim to connoisseurship, their only claim, I might add. Anyway, the Durants are standing in this cocktail party that the Schusters are giving for them, and I go across to sit--meet them because I've spoken to them on the phone and corresponded with them but not yet met them.

And Ariel Durant, who's wrapped in this kind of shapeless shmatte and there's this little old lady with gray hair, had the face of Madam DeFarge. She would have been perfect as a tricoteur, is standing there muttering under her breath while Will is kind of nervously wringing his hands, 'cause he was the kind of guy who always is nice to people. But the reason he's always nice to people is that he knows that Ariel will say all the things that he wants to say but can't. So he always covets this reputation as a nice guy, where she gets the reputation as the tough person.

Anyway, I go across to speak to them and she's in a state of which--and I say, `Is there anything the matter?' And Ariel says to me, she has this inimitable Russian-Jewish accent--she says `Look at them--look at them--look at the Schusters, Max and Ray. They live like kings off our blood. My Will goes blind working until all hours of the night to keep them like kings.' I've never forgotten the resentment of--and I--it was on the tip of my tongue to say, `Yes, but you've been getting enormous royalties. I see the royalty checks when they go out. Thousands and thousands of dollars every six months go out to the Durants and have been for, like, 20 or 30 years.' But, no, they--they--they felt that--that the lifeblood had been squeezed out of them by the Schusters because the Schusters had this apartment in New York and--and traveled off the blood squeezed from poor Will. And this had taught me, I think at a very early age, the absolute fatuity of these speeches that you hear in book publishing where somebody will get up and say, of course, the author and the publisher on the same team. The author and the publisher are not on the same team and never have been.
LAMB: Now I don't know whether you know anything close to this, but d--do--do you know how many of these 11-volume series have sold?
Mr. KORDA: Oh, it's almost impossible to calculate. Simon & Schuster sold hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them over the years. The Book of the Month Club, for all I know, has sold millions of them. It's...
LAMB: What do they--do you have any idea what they would cost today if you bought them today?
Mr. KORDA: Well, I think you can buy them today, actually, hardcover, although it would be difficult to imagine somebody doing that. But my guess is, you'd be talking somewhere between $300 and $400 for the whole set.
LAMB: And why did so many people buy them over the years, and do you think people read them?
Mr. KORDA: Well, that's a very good question. Of course, you could ask that about almost anything, do people--it's very often a big question in my mind, is whether people read any of this. Well, I'm not sure they do--in--in later years, I'm not sure that--that--that--that--that they do actually buy them, because their staple has been for the Book of the Month Club to give them. And my feeling is that people put them on the shelf and they stay there which, in fact, is rather a pity, because you could do much worse than read through the Durants for a history of civilization up to the age of Napoleon. Do people actually read them? Yes, certainly when they were alive, they got a substantial amount of fan mail, so somebody must have been reading them.
LAMB: I--I think I saw the copyright on this last one had 1972.
Mr. KORDA: That sounds about right.
LAMB: Did they die right after that?
Mr. KORDA: Well, not right after that. Then--they continued to write. Will wrote his autobiography. I would say they lived on some years after--af--a--af--af--afterwards.
LAMB: Now who were they?
Mr. KORDA: Will, as I remember, was, in fact, a kind of renegade priest. He'd been a Catholic priest, lost faith with the church; reason overcame religion. And he was, in fact, very hostile to religion, and the books are moderate in the sense of the 1920s and the 1930s in that they are--they are skeptical of organized religion, extremely skeptical of Catholicism, and faith--great faith in human progress, science and philosophy.

Curious enough, the Durants managed to keep that faith through the Second World War, through the Moscow purge trials and through the atomic age, so it was a firm faith. They were rather like H.G. Wells in the sense that despite abundant evidence to the contrary, they believed that life was getting better and people were getting smarter and better educated and more progressive and more liberal. I was never able to see for myself any proof that that was the case, but the Durants believed it quite--they believed in the "firm upward march of human progress," to quote them exactly, which takes some believing.

Anyway, Will had been a priest, left the church and started to write these little books of philosophy, which eventually came to the zealous eye of Max Schuster, who read everything of this kind that was available. And Max gathered together some of Will's pamphlets and published them as the story of philosophy.

Ariel was so young when she married Will Durant that she skated from the Bronx down to City Hall on her roller-skates for the taking of the marriage license. For all that, I have to say that two more disagreeable people, it would be difficult to m--meet, even though they were quite nice to me. So I'm not sure whether it was a happy marriage or not. But it certainly was a productive one--millions and millions of words.
LAMB: Where did they live?
Mr. KORDA: They lived in Southern California, in Los Angeles. I don't know why, but they fled out there and they fit there. They had--they were vegetarian. When you went to their house, you got peculiar herbal teas and nut burgers and odd--sort of odd food like that. And they wore--and I describe in the book in several--they wore sort of h--there was health faddist space shoes that are molded to the foot out of some curious substance that isn't leather but also isn't plastic. They fitted in, actually, in Southern California.
LAMB: You went to visit them?
Mr. KORDA: I visited them there, and they absolutely belonged in the land of the loved one.
LAMB: What--what do you mean by that?
Mr. KORDA: Well, they would have fit--they were right there with Mr. George Boy and Amy Thannatopolis .... I mean, it wasn't the California, let us say, of Beverly Hills, where I partly grew up. It was the California of Hollywood hills with these huge dark houses and vegetarian meals and strange cults. They fit into that quite well.
LAMB: But you tell the story about how Ariel Durant wanted her name on this.
Mr. KORDA: Ariel had worked alongside Will Durant for many, many years, as his--researching--as he wrote, and as they got older, she began to do some of the writing as well. In fact, the trip that I took to see the Durants at Los Angeles was precisely because Ariel had been assisting on co-authorship and it was a very--very difficult point, because publishers don't like to change anything successful, so although Max Schuster would rather have done anything than to have had an argument with the Durants--or indeed, with anybody else--nevertheless, he didn't want to change any part of a winning formula, and adding Ariel Durant's to it--name to the books might just change it in some way. And I actually was persuaded by them that this was, if not a good idea, at any rate, something that had to be taken into account, and went back and persuaded Max. So they were, in fact, in their own way, quite grateful to me for that because I think from volume eight or nine on, they're by Will and Ariel Durant. And in some cases, I've actually seen editions of the book where Ariel's name has been retroactively added, so she's been given co-authorship on some of the earlier books.
LAMB: How did they do--I mean, wha--I think you said two and a half million words?
Mr. KORDA: It's probably that.
LAMB: How did he write? How did he gather all the information? How much of it was primary source? How much of it was reading others' works?
Mr. KORDA: Well, you know, they were both going back into history. None of it was primary source. I mean, the Durants--Durants simply had a huge, huge library. Both Will and Ariel had a remarkable sort of head for quotes, and could find what they were looking for. If they wanted to write about Hobbes, they simply first read all of Hobbes and then read everything they could find that had been written about Hobbes, and then back, and in effect, did what you would call, perhaps, a book essay on Hobbes. They were not original historians in the sense that you mean it. I don't think Dead Sea scrolls or their equivalent ever passed through their hands.
LAMB: But how did they do it physically? You--you mean, you paint the picture of then in that place, in that dark room, and--and...
Mr. KORDA: Well, I would sit--Will, rather, would sit in an armchair with a kind of blanket over his shoulders, and with a kind of work board on his knees, and write longhand, while Ariel would clip quotes that he asked for onto the top of the clipboard. It's not a worst way of doing it than any other when you come right down to it.
LAMB: How do you write?
Mr. KORDA: Well, these days I use a word processor, because it's convenient to. Before, I used an electric typewriter, and before that, I used a manual typewriter. I never thought it mattered much. I stayed at Larry McMurtry's ranch in Archer City. I published Larry McMurtry for 30 years, and he is one of my closest friends, and one of the people I'm most proud of having published, and I--Larry's, of course, a rancher's son, so he gets up before 5 in the morning, and I hear him fry some bacon, I hear the toast popping, coffee percolator going around quarter to 5, and about five minutes past, 10 minutes past 5, I hear coming out of the kitchen while Larry's eating his breakfast: tck, tck, tck, tck, ting! tck, tck, tck, tck, ting! tck, tck, tck, ting! tck, tck, tck, ting! I hear the ting of a typewriter. Of course, many of the people who are watching this show will not have heard that sound, or know what a typewriter is, I'm afraid.

But anyway, Larry has written every book that he's written--and there have been a lot of them in these past 30 years--on the old manual typewriter he had way back when, when he was in high school. It's--he's not sentimentally attached to it, I don't think, in any way. It's just the typewriter he's always had. He's used to it, and that's what he types with. I don't think it makes any difference. Tolstoy wrote "War and Peace" l--longhand in--the fountain pen. Does it matter? The way in which you write something, it seems to me, is almost immaterial.
LAMB: Why does the editor of Simon & Schuster have his book published by the big competitor, Ra--Random House?
Mr. KORDA: Well, for a time, Richard E. Snyder, the famously ill-tempered CEO of Simon & Schuster--and my friend--persuaded me that I should be published by various imprints of Simon & Schuster, because he felt that Gulf Western, which then owned us, would find it difficult to understand why I was writing best sellers for Random House when I was employed as editor in chief of Simon & Schuster.

I gave in to that very reluctantly, because I rather like the independence that being published elsewhere gave me, and also because I think it's a strangely--a conflict of interest to be published by your own company, and uncomfortable for everybody involved. I was very happy--although I was horrified when Dick Snyder was fired--I was very happy that I could then go back to Random House, because I think it's much more comfortable to be published by other people. I--I--it's loathsome to sit around meetings where people are discussing your book, and you have to leave the room.

LAMB: Who edits your book?
Mr. KORDA: At the moment, Bob Loomis is my editor, but I've had a virtual pantheon of editors over the years, largely because they change jobs--unlike me--so often. I began with Nan Talese, who is a terrific editor. Then I had Jim Silberman, who is a terrific editor. Then I had Jason Epstein, who was the editor of "Charmed Lives" and who was wonderful. Then I came to Simon & Schuster and had Joanie Evans for my editor. Then I had Jim Silberman again because he moved from Random House back to Simon & Schuster. And now it's Bob Loomis, so I've had lots of editors, but I've been very fortunate, because they've all been quite wonderful.
LAMB: How did you get to know Ronald Reagan?
Mr. KORDA: In what was then thought of as a terrific coup, Dick Snyder bought Ronald Reagan's presidential memoirs, at the very height of the president's popularity, paying a fabulous amount of money for it, for the day. I've forgotten what it was--$8 million or $9 million--a lot of money. And since I'm the editor in chief of Simon & Schuster and also something of a historian, it was thought appropriate that I should be Ronald Reagan's editor, and sort of fitting, because that's what they expected, anyway. They asked for me.

There was a minor glitch and problem, because I was also Kitty Kelley's editor, and Kitty Kelley was then writing a biography of Nancy Reagan, which Nancy feared with considerable--depth of fear. And so that proved to be an embarrassment for everybody, and I had to give up editing Kitty Kelley, which made me very sad because she's a friend and because I think she's a won--wonderful biographer. I then took on editing Ronald Reagan, which was sort of strange, because the president, of course, did not write his books. There was a ghostwriter, Bob Lindsey, whom we picked, and rather famously, at the end of the whole procedure, we had a press conference at which Ronald Reagan and I were photographed ostensibly editing his book. We were each--sat in front of the television cameras and given two sheafs of perfectly blank white paper, and a--and a ballpoint pen, and we sat there, the two of us together at this table, busily pretending to scribble editorial notes and things, and hand them back--on totally blank pieces of paper. I mean, not for nothing did the president come from the movies--and he was wonderful at it. Anybody watching this would--you know, the concentration, the firmness of his handwriting, his total immersion in what he was doing. But I mean, it was--it was the movies.

Anyway, I--af--after this had taken place and this scene had been recorded for all the television shows, the president stood up, and he walked to the door and turned around--the cameras were still on him, of course, and still on--and turned around and waved, and he said, `I'm sure the book is great. I'm looking forward to reading it when I have the time.' And it's true. He had only the most tangential connection to this book.

I went out to see him in California. I liked him very much, politics apart. I thought he was a wonderful man. He used to phone constantly, and it was nice, because he never placed--you know, usually a telephone operator says, `The president will be on the line; please hold for the president.' With--with--with Reagan, I would come home--and of course, you know he's a great horseman, loves horses, and my wife Margaret is a very successful three-day eventer and her whole life revolves around horses--so I would come home, and I would hear Margaret on the phone. She'd be sitting there, say, talking about horses endlessly, this horse and that horse and what it did, and somebody else would be on there--and after about 20 minutes, because I wanted to get a drink or something, I would say `Who is it?' And she would say, `It's President Reagan,' because he just--he would place calls. He would pick up the phone, and he would say, `Ah, hi. This is Ron Reagan. Is Michael Korda there?' And you know--and he would talk to whoever was on the line. He was the friendliest of men.

But I was actually sent out to him because he had neglected to mention in taping the material that we were going to use for the book, his marriage to Jane Wyman, and when I had pointed this out, I encountered this wall of resistance which came back--actually for the first time, the president was actually rather stiff with me. No, he did not want to discuss Jane Wyman. Well, that's kind of a problem, because as I pointed out to him, it isn't that anybody wanted him to say anything about Jane Wyman, but if reviewers find he hadn't even mentioned his first marriage, they might conclude that if he could leave that out, he'd left other--he'd leave other things out, and therefore, that the book couldn't be relied on.

So I was sent out to California to negotiate this point with a very reluctant president, and I said, you know, `You don't have to say anything about it. Just one sentence--on such-and-such a day, I was married to Jane Wyman, but the marriage, unfortunately, ended on such-and-such--that's it. That's all you need to do. Just so--so her name is in the index. That's all you--.' No. Well, it did not take me very long to work out that the actual opponent to the mention of Jane Wyman was not, of course, the president, but Mrs. Reagan, and I managed to negotiate that by saying, `The--it would make the president look foolish if he didn't at least mention--' and overnight, the president came back and he said, `It's just fine,' and we wrote out by hand one sentence and put it in the book.

But he was always, when I--whenever I worked with him--the kindest and the nicest. He always brought his little bag of home-baked cookies to have with coffee in a paper bag in the morning, and he would put them on a plate and pass them around. I--I--of the three presidents I've worked with, I--I liked him by far and away the most, and I would have liked him even if he hadn't been president. He was just a very endearing and nice man.
LAMB: You go into some detail in your book about the cookie.
Mr. KORDA: Yes, because the president brought these home-baked--he al--came in with this little bag of--paper--brown paper bag. He said, `These are homemade chocolate chip cookies, made by Esmerelda, our maid, and I brought them in for us to have with our coffee.' And we'd put them on a--but these weird look--because they looked like she was--I think she was Ecuadorian or In--Inc--South or Latin American--and they looked like, in fact, like chocolate chip cookies that had been made by somebody who's never seen a chocolate chip cookie. You know, they were kind of too thick and too burned at the edges. Anyway--but he loved them, so we put them on the plate, and as we were having our coff--we'd pass them around the table. There were about six or seven of us around the table, all of us working on these proofs except for Ronald Reagan, who was kind of looking out the window, and wishing he were doing something else. And everybody has one of these chocolate chip cookies, and when the plate gets 'round to the end of the table, it's put back in front of the president, and there's one cookie left on the plate.

And about 15 or 20 minutes I realized that the president is paying no attention whatsoever to what we are saying, and that his mind is fixed on something else. And what it's fixed on is this choc--one remaining chocolate chip cookie, which is--he's firm--and it's perfectly clear to me that he wants that second chocolate ch--chocolate chip cookie with his coffee, but having been brought up in Dixon, Illinois, properly, he has been taught, as a maxim that cannot possibly be broken, that you do not take the last cookie on plate, particularly when you're the host, so he can't take it. So to break the spell, I said, `Mr. President, those chocolate chip cookies were delicious.' And he holds up the plate and he said, `Oh, yes. Yeah, they--they're good, weren't they? They're homemade,' and he goes through the whole thing. He said, `Would anybody like the cookie?' And he then passes the plate around the table, and it goes 'round everybody, gets to me, and I pass it on to Bob Lindsey, who's sitting next to me and between me and the president, and you could see the relief on the president's plate--face--as this plate comes around with this one--and nobody's touched this cookie. And just as it reaches Bob Lindsey, without even looking at it, Lindsey takes the cookie up and swallows it. And I looked, and Ronald Reagan's face was such a picture of sadness that I--my heart went out to him, even though I don't agree with him polit--I just felt for him. He could--you know, he--he--he almost had it, you know, he had that cookie in his hand. He was counting on it, and he didn't get it.
LAMB: How many books did you print, and how many did you sell?
Mr. KORDA: Well, we probably printed about 300,000 or 400,000, and I would be very surprised if we sold 15,000 or 20,000 in the end.
LAMB: Thousand.
Mr. KORDA: It was total disaster, probably the largest disaster of modern publishing. And the answer to that is that although people loved Ronald Reagan, they didn't necessarily want to buy his book, and I think that's often true of presidential memoirs. They didn't feel that they would really learn something new and different, as indeed they didn't, although it was quite a fine book in its own way. And it's always struck me that presidential memoirs tend by their very nature to be non-books. They're--they're not--I think the last readable one was written by Ulysses S. Grant, because he wrote it himself in longhand while he was dying with cancer, and it's actually a very fine book. It was published by Mark Twain. But since then they've mostly been put together.
LAMB: As you know, Bob Loomis is the editor of Edmund Morris' book "Dutch," expected out some time this year. It's a competitor. What's your prediction on what that book'll do?
Mr. KORDA: I'm sure it will do well, first of all because Edmund Morris is a wonderful historian. Secondly, because although it sounds bizarre, he has found some new way of writing about President Reagan, which I'm not quite sure I understand, and I am immensely looking forward to reading it. Finally, though, I think that the time is now ripe for people to be interested in Ronald Reagan again. I think people are sorry for him; even people who opposed him politically are sorry for him because of the Alzheimer's. I think people are beginning to realize that whether he thought it out or not, that he was far more instrumental in the fall of communism than he's been given credit for, and because there's a kind of tenuous cycle to presidents. They fall out of popularity, then with any luck they come back into popularity, and I think it's about his turn.
LAMB: Richard Nixon.
Mr. KORDA: How--Richard Nixon I published for several years, many years, in fact, and was first introduced to him by his daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower, a dear friend of mine--two of whose books I published--who took me to lunch at Nixon's house when he and Mrs. Nixon were living in New York City. And we were upstairs in the dining room. Nixon was delayed for something downstairs and came up, and when he came in he was tremendously affable. He came across and shook my hand and said, `Very nice to see you, very, very nice,' and then without a change in tone or anything else, he went across and shook Mrs. Nixon's hand and said, `Very nice to see you,' in exactly the same tone of voice, and sat down and started his soup. And I thought, `This is really bizarre.' But I ca--came to recognize that he had this difficulty in communicating to people in some way.

When I went out to Saddle River, New Jersey, to dinner at Nixon's house there, he came down the stairs, and we were gathered in the foyer, and he came down, and when he was like two or three steps above us, he raised his arms--it was in a strange gesture like this--and said, `The good news is, the bar is open.' And I was--Nixon finds it very difficult to com--he's shy. It's difficult for him to communicate with people, and he had this weird habit of referring him--to himself in the third person, which I mention in "Another Life." Not only would he say of himself, he would say, `It's interesting you should say that. When Nixon was president, and leader of the free world,' as if leader of the free world were a title, but always in the third person. But he would actually say to the butler, he would say, `Manolo, freshen Nixon's drink, would you?' He--bizarre! And--and--and--so I describe all of this. I--I describe the fact--he was baffling. I mean, the fact that he couldn't find his way around his own house when he gave us a tour of the house, myself and the Chinese ambassador, and--and the interpreter. He s--he kept saying, `And this Nixon's study,' and he would open a closet door, and he--`No, that's the--' and we had to go through three or four doors before he would finally open the door and say, `Well, that's it.'

Then, when he wanted to give the Chinese presents, he opens this drawer of his desk and he reaches in, and he says, `I'm going to give you one of the most important books of the 20th century,' and they're standing there waiting, and he brings out--and he's got a desk drawer full of hard-cover copies of Whittaker Chambers' "Witness." So he gives them each a copy--Whitak--I said, `What are they going to make of this when they get back to Peking and have it all translated?' The Pumpkin Papers, Alger Hiss--what possible significance--20 years from now, people are still going to be figure out--figuring out what message Nixon was trying to convey by giving them "Witness." But there was an endearing quality--again, politics to one side--about the man, because he was so shy, so nervous of contact with people that you couldn't help liking him because he made such an effort.

When he came to lunch at Simon & Schuster--I arranged a lunch for him to meet our senior executives, and with considerable difficulty, it was set up--and he came in, and he was very gracious, very nice, sat down to lunch. And as he sat to lu--down to lunch, his assistant, a very, very nice young man, handed us each--John Taylor--handed us each a three-by-five lined card on which there was a typed question, and he explained, `When it's--when I give a signal to you, ask this question of President Nixon.' And so we're sitting having our soup, and John Nixon--John Taylor goes (snaps fingers) to me, and I pick up this card, and I say, `Mr. President, given our present relationships with Europe, how would you compare them to what they were when you were president?' And Nixon says, `Ah, Michael, I'm glad you asked that question,' and for 10 minutes gives this very interesting, succinct lecture on American relationships with Europe, and then John Taylor signaled somebody else, who reads their que--so the entire lunch passed like that, and then Nixon shook hands and was gone. It was carefully staged so there could not be an unexpected question or a personal contact, even though he was, in fact, quite fond of me and me of him, but there was this barrier of shyness that he could not break through.
LAMB: Now how close did Ben Stein come to writing a book in the name of Jesse Jackson?
Mr. KORDA: He wrote the book.
LAMB: He wrote the book?
Mr. KORDA: Oh, yeah. It was pretty good, I thought, actually, when you consider that Ben Stein wrote it to be under Jesse Jackson's name. I thought he did a pretty good job.
LAMB: Oh, he ac--I didn't get the impression he wrote the book.
Mr. KORDA: No, no, he wrote--Jesse Jackson has had several stabs at people writing this book, and Ben Stein, I thought, was about the best of them all. I'm not sure he wrote the whole book--I believe only a half of it, but...
LAMB: Ben Stein, the son of Herb Stein, who was...
Mr. KORDA: Ben Stein, the s--yes.
LAMB: ...Richard Nixon's economic adviser...
Mr. KORDA: Ben--that Ben Stein, the one who speaks very slowly and with--yes.
LAMB: The "Comedy Central," "Ferris Bueller" Ben Stein...
Mr. KORDA: That's the--that's the...
LAMB: ...conservative.
Mr. KORDA: ...Ben Stein. I'm very fond of Ben Stein and, in fact, I think it's my fault--I'm the one who suggested him to Jesse Jackson, and to my surprise, Jesse accepted. But I think every ti--it didn't matter who wrote the book. I mean, Jackie Susann could have written the book, had she still been alive. I think the same process would happen every time. As Jesse got closer to its being a book and seeing the actual pages before him, he got less enthusiastic about having a book, and I think that's what was it--it took me a while to figure it out, and I only figured it out retroactively, which is a shame, because we spent a lot of money which we need not necessarily have spent on writers. But it wasn't a question of who the writer was. As it got near to its actually becoming a book, he shied away from it. And that's quite common with people. You know, it's one thing to tell people about your life. It's another thing to suddenly see before you in words on paper, so that you start saying, `Whoa! Wait a minute. I didn't mean that. I didn't say that. I can't say that about him or her.' Very difficult process.
LAMB: But you say that Irving "Swifty" Lazar brought this whole idea to you, and--and how did that happen? And who was Irving "Swifty" Lazar?
Mr. KORDA: Irving Lazar was the greatest of superagents and--and my dear and close friend for many, many years. I miss today his voice on the phone, because he would phone once a day, early in the morning by his standards--which was noon or 1:00 in the afternoon from the coast--and say, `This is Lazar. What's happening, kiddo?' And then you would get this incredible sales pitch. And Lazar's real trick was to sell you celebrity names. Very often, they weren't people who wanted to write a book in the first place, but that didn't matter to Lazar. He'd get an offer out of you and take it back to the celebrity, who perhaps had never thought of writing a book. And I suspect that that's what happened with Jesse Jackson, is that Irving simply saw him one day and said, `Are you writing a book?' And Jesse Jackson said, `No,' and Irving said, `I'll get you a deal.' And the very same day, he'd call me, he'd call Bennett Cerf, he'd call--and he'd come back to Jesse Jackson that evening with a--with an offer, and Jesse Jackson would say, `Hey, you know, that's a lot of money. Maybe I should write a book,' right? He was once--I think it was Oscar Levant once said, famously, of Lazar, `Everybody who matters in this world has two agents, his own and Irving Lazar.'
LAMB: Now how did--how could you do Woodward and Bernstein and "All the President's Men" and John Erlichman and John Dean and Mo Dean and--and others in the Watergate thing? How could you do all sides, or for that matter, you do Mrs. Clinton and Bill Bennett?
Mr. KORDA: Yes, and we do Henry Kissinger and William Shawcross. I think a publisher has to do that. I don't think publishing should be ideological. I think publishers should offer a broad range of books to people. It's in much the same spirit that I am happy to do first novels, and happy to publish and edit Graham Greene or Larry McMurtry, but I don't see why that should prevent me from publishing Jacqueline Susann or Harold Robbins. I think that you should do the best and the most interesting of everything there is, and--and do it with conviction. I don't think--I think to go down an ideological pathway for a publisher is to enter an ever-narrowing path, and you end up being unable to publish a broad range of books. I would never want to do that.
LAMB: Who in your lifetime has made--and maybe this can't be answered--the most money, not--not from just, you know, from advances--like a Ronald Reagan and $8 million or whatever it was--who's made the most money actually selling books that people want to read? And--and--and--you know, is it a lot of money?
Mr. KORDA: Well, that requires two factors. First of all, the books have to sell an awful lot of copies, but secondly, longevity and the number of books you write comes into that, of course. I would say that probably it's somewhere between Danielle Steele and Tom Clancy and perhaps Mary Higgins Clark, because they're both very productive. Mary writes a book every year and sometimes two books a year. Danielle Steele writes perhaps three books a year, and they're all enormous best-sellers. So if you continue that over a career, 15 or 20 writing years, that can add up to a large amount of money.
LAMB: And what is it that they have that clicks?
Mr. KORDA: Storytelling ability. That's all that really matters. It's the most important thing, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, by the way, is that in some way, the book is written so that every time you turn a page, you want to turn to the next page. If you don't, then something is wrong with the book, and the editor should have found a way to fix that.
LAMB: Now that's what your book is, is full of stories.
Mr. KORDA: Yes. And I think once you start reading this book--I mean, my test of a book is if I start reading the book and I say, `Look, I've got to get up really early tomorrow morning, I'm going to read a few pages of this, but then I'm going to put it down and go to sleep'--if I'm still reading at three in the morning, then it's a good book. If I can say at, say, a quarter to 12, `Well, that's enough of this. I think I'll go to bed now,' then it's not such a good book.
LAMB: You're a natural speed reader. How long--I mean, how fast do you read?
Mr. KORDA: I don't--I've never measured--very, very fast, but I should say two things: One is that when I read for pleasure, I consciously slow myself down, because if I'm reading, say, a Steph--a Stephen Hunter novel, because I love Stephen Hunter's novels, or Keegan's book on the First World War, which I just read and which is a marvelous book, I force myself to read slowly, because otherwise, I'm just not getting the pleasure out of it. I just--I'm--I'm going too fast. On the other hand, if I'm reading professionally to go through manuscripts, then I read very, very fast. The better the book is, the more I'll tend to slow down. In fact, if I start slowing down, it's usually a sign that the book interests me and that there's something there. If I just keep on going very quickly, it's a sign that there isn't.
LAMB: Now you describe in your book a lot of people that get older, and things start to deteriorate and--I mean, you--there's a lot of, you know the--the old-timers in here, and you're what, 65, 66?
Mr. KORDA: Sixty-six.
LAMB: How long are you going to do this?
Mr. KORDA: Well, several years more, I think. I enjoy doing it. I like the contrast between the writing, which I do alone and up in the country, and coming into New York and dealing with the publishing. Much more, of course, can be--of it can be done from home now because we can e-mail and the fax machine and so forth. It's much--much easier to do this kind of thing and not be actually in New York, although I think if you stay out of the office too much, people assume that you've either retired or died, so eventually you do have to appear and go to meetings.
LAMB: There's a--a--I was trying to find it--I underlined it and I couldn't find it right before we started--a whole paragraph in here where you talk about what happens to people when they have to live according to the standard that they've set for themselves, and they begin to do things that they wouldn't ordinarily do. In other words, their standard of living's way up here, so they're--that--that--that changes the whole way that they deal with their lives.
Mr. KORDA: Yes, I think that's unfortunate, and that does actually happen to people, of course, that they--Harold Robbins was a perfect example of somebody whose lifestyle ended by killing him, because he--he lived it on such a high level, with the yacht in the south of France and the house in Acapulco and the house in Palm Springs and the servants and the traveling back and forth in private jets so that, God forbid, he should have to rub shoulders with ordinary people in first class. There's a point when you've written, say, "The Carpetbaggers" and "The Adventurers" where you can do that, because it's making--you're making so much money. Then, all of a sudden, the books begin to sell less well, you're putting less effort into the books, you get older and it's harder. Now if you want to keep up that lifestyle and not reduce it, it becomes a crushing burden and, eventually, a very destructive one, because it can't be done, because it's like any kind of addiction. It's like alcoholism. You can't stop it, but on this--on the--on the other hand, you can't do it because it's killing you.

I think that's greatly to be avoided. I--I think I've always chosen to lead a--as--as--as comfortable and luxurious a lifestyle as I possibly can, but I've always been conscious of the fact that I don't want to make it one of those lifestyles that ends up by being a crushing burden.
LAMB: You also talk about the book tour.
Mr. KORDA: Well, I've done a lot of them. I've written 12 books, I've toured for most of them in hardcover, for many of them a second time around in paperback, and for not a small number of them, a third time around in England and a fourth time around in France, since I'm bilingual and one of the few people who can go over there and promote a book in French. So, yes, I have been on many, many book tours and sent many people on book tours. It's a little bit like combat.
LAMB: What's the worst thing about them?
Mr. KORDA: The worst thing about them is that you're away from home and moving from one hotel to another without ever getting a chance to unpack, because you tend to be up very early in the morning for the early morning television shows and then in the evening, instead of going to bed, you take the last plane out to the next city. So in that sense, it's like being on the road as a salesman. The best thing about them is, you truly get to meet a lot of fascinating people who love books that you wouldn't in any way meet any other way. I mean, I was in Portland a couple of weeks ago, in--at Powers, the great bookstore there, and it was like being bathed in--in--in book love. I mean, out there, there are book--there are still wonderful independent bookstores and people who really love books and read a prodigious amount, and that's something a publisher should know.
LAMB: Our guest has been Michael Korda. He's the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster. Here's the name of the book, "Another Life: A Memoir of Other People." We thank you very much.
Mr. KORDA: Thank you for having me.


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