President and editor-In-chief of Alfred A. Knopf Sonny Mehta in an undated portrait. (Photo: Getty Images, Getty Images)
NEW YORK — Sonny Mehta, the affable and adroit arch of Alfred A. Knopf who guided one of the book world’s best admired imprints to new heights through a alloy of best abstract by Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy amid others and blockbusters such as “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” has died at age 77.
Mehta, the bedmate of columnist Gita Mehta, died Monday at a Manhattan hospital. According to Knopf, the account was complications from pneumonia.
“Mehta’s contributions to the apple of belletrist and publishing are after precedent,” a account from the administrator apprehend Tuesday. “His burdensome standards – in editorial, production, design, marketing, and publicity – were a alarm to the book industry and beyond.”
A almsman will be alleged at some point in the new year.
The bearded, chain-smoking Mehta batten anxiously and chose wisely, allowance Knopf advance alike as the industry faced the arrant changes of accumulated consolidation, the annihilation of bags of absolute food and the acceleration of e-books.
An able administrator and editor back his mid-20s, he succeeded the admired Robert Gottlieb in 1987 as aloof the third Knopf editor-in-chief in its 72-year history and over the afterward decades ancient his own almanac of analytical and bartering success.
Knopf additionally was home to some of the acknowledged works in contempo times. In 2008, Mehta acquired U.S. rights to a leash of abomination fiction by a asleep Swedish journalist, Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium” series, which went on to advertise tens of millions of copies.
In undated photo provided by Random House, Sonny Mehta poses for a portrait. Mehta died Dec. 30, 2019, in Manhattan, at age 77. (Photo: Michael Lionstar, Random House via AP)
In 2012, the album banner Vintage won a behest war for an absolute amative leash that at the time could alone be apprehend digitally, E L James’ “Fifty Shades” novels. Added top sellers appear during Mehta’s administration included Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In,” Bill Clinton’s “My Life” and Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild.”
When the Center for Fiction accustomed Mehta in 2018 with a lifetime accomplishment award, tributes were accounting by Joan Didion, Haruki Murakami and Anne Tyler, who accepted “his precision” and “deft assurance” and alleged him the “Fred Astaire of editing.”
Knopf’s archive generally reflected Mehta’s own ample curiosity. In a distinct season, the administrator ability absolution new fiction by Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, abomination novels by P.D. James and James Ellroy, balladry by Anne Carson and Philip Levine, history by John Keegan and Joseph Ellis, amusement by Nora Ephron and memoirs by Bill Clinton or Katharine Hepburn or Andre Agassi.
Knopf additionally accepted the rewards of patience, acceptance Caro to absorb years amid anniversary chapter of his Lyndon Johnson biographies, a decades-long activity that awash hundreds of bags of copies and brought Caro abundant awards.
Mehta was built-in Ajai Singh Mehta, the bookish son of Indian agent Amrik Singh Mehta. He lived everywhere from Geneva to Nepal as a adolescent and accelerating from Cambridge University with degrees in history and English literature.
Choosing book publishing over his parents’ wishes he become a diplomat, Mehta bare little time to accomplish an appulse in London, allowance to barrage the arcane career of his academy acquaintance Germaine Greer and introducing British readers to the abusive Americana of Hunter S. Thompson. With Pan Books, he appear works by ascent authors such as Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, while signing up Jackie Collins, Douglas Adams and added best-sellers. He was Gottlieb’s claimed best to booty over at Knopf, but still faced antecedent wariness from the staff.
“People … had the abhorrent abhorrence that I was activity to aback broadcast Jackie Collins over actuality and absolutely array of lower the accent of the place,” Mehta told Publishers Weekly in 2015.
“I anticipate the aberration was that I apparently encouraged bodies to bazaar a lot added than they were in the addiction of doing. I encouraged them to attending at a assertive blazon of arcane fiction and see it wasn’t necessarily advised for some affectionate of ghetto, that there was a bigger bazaar for it.”
(L-R) Philip Caputo, Richard Russo, Ajai Singh “Sonny” Mehta, administrator and editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf, and Lidia Bastianich at accession with authors from The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at Strand Book Store on May 29, 2009 in New York City. (Photo: Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images)
Mehta survived abundant transformations at Knopf, conspicuously the 1999 accretion by the German amassed Bertelsmann AG and the 2012 alliance with Penguin Group, and outlasted aggregation rivals such as Random House President Ann Godoff and Bantam Dell administrator Irwyn Applebaum.
He was broadly accustomed for accretion the company’s all-embracing ability and accepting Vintage and authoritative it one of publishing’s best acknowledged album imprints, acceptable so complex he alike redesigned the covers. He additionally helped accumulate Knopf, now the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a abiding and adapted abode to work.
Authors from Caro to John Updike remained with the administrator for decades and so did top editors such as Judith Jones, who helped ascertain Julia Adolescent and added cookbook writers; Ashbel Green, who edited album authors such as Ellis and above President George H.W. Bush; and Carol Brown Janeway, who acquired English-language editions for fiction by Nobel laureates Heinrich Boll and Imre Kertesz.
Mehta himself edited Don Winslow’s acclaimed abomination atypical “The Cartel” and abundant added works.
“On a acceptable day, I am still assertive I accept the best job in the world,” Mehta told Vanity Fair in 2016, answer that he had afresh accomplished a novella by Graham Swift. “I opened it and didn’t apperceive what to expect, and I apprehend it in one sitting appropriate actuality in the office, absolutely mesmerized. Sometimes you acquisition article new and you aloof say ‘Wow.’ “
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