Friday. The long crosstown walk between 34th St. and B’way and 41st and 2nd Ave. And I walked it fast as these legs could carry me. Because every step brought me closer to a visit with one of the most important influences of my life: Richard Marek.

Dick was my editor/publisher at Putnam. And also at St. Martin’s. In both cases, under his own imprint. This is the man who was, in large part, responsible for the rise and renown of Robert Ludlum. This is the guy who has worked with the likes of James Baldwin. And about two dozen and more authors whose names you will certainly know. His faith in me started me on a path I’d never known that I carried quite so solidly under my feet.

I stood outside the restaurant for a goodly while, waiting to spot him—just to see that walk again. Dick has a distinctive walk. Always did have. And it’s not all that much different in this, his 77th year. Dick doesn’t stroll—he shambles. He lopes. He carries himself like a person who has spent a long time looking at books. Which he has.

Dick is a force of nature. A born and bred New Yorker through and through. His sense of humor has always been my favorite thing about him. He is funny unlike anyone one else I’ve ever known. He makes me laugh in ways I never expect to. His wit is sharp—and sharp-edged. Keenly observant. Acerbic. Smart and insightful. Dick calls ’em as he sees ’em. He would have made a great umpire…and no one would have dared to argue with him. I’ve always been a little in awe of him, and that hasn’t changed one bit.

We talked about his life and mine since we last saw one another, over a decade ago. We talked about my beloved Salonistes. We talked about the state of an industry in flux…with a future nobody yet has a model for. We talked a little about electronic media and its future as a writers’ marketing tool. We talked about what might be the eventual demise of publishing and bookselling as we have always known it. We talked about the rise of Sales as the all-consuming force in a business that once prized originality and daring. We talked about his current life as a writer, book doctor and ghost writer. We talked about his life on the Connecticut shore, this man who once claimed to be allergic to green. Not an altogether cheering discussion. But a fascinating one. They always were.

A conversation of two and a half hours has never passed so quickly. I wish I we lived close enough to have a lot more of them, and a lot more often. So it goes with one of the most extraordinary friendships of my life. Maybe it’s the same with some of the most formative folks in your life as well.

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