Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Lyle Stuart a sketch

Lyle Stuart had a beatific smile on his puckish face, as he sat, watching the three candles on his 73rd birthday candle burn down. When one of the small group of friends who had thrown this surprise party for him reminded him to make a wish, he replied: "I really don't know what to wish for, I have everything that I want." He patted the smooth jacket of the fresh-off-the-press copy of "The Housekeeper's Diary," by Wendy Berry, a long-time domestic in the employ of Princess Di, now hiding from British prosecution in the USA. The authoress had just completed fifty radio interviews from a New York studio. In Lyle's pocket was an injunction to cease selling the book, served on his Barricade Books by the lawyers of the Prince of Wales, which, Lyle figured, should help in boosting the sales of the Diary. And he had been in Las Vegas the month before, and done well at baccarat.

The House of Windsor was not the first royal house to sue Lyle; in 1965 he was brought to court by King Farouk of Egypt for some statements in "Pleasure Was My Business," by Madame Sherry, and escaped having to pay damages in an Italian court award only when the King died, 6 weeks after the depositions.

Lawsuits are part of Lyles life; he owed the start of his publishing empire - okay, small empire, Carol Group was priced at only $12 million when Steven Schrigis of the Doral Hotel family bought it from him and partners in 199x - to winning a $40,000 taxfree libel award in 1955 from Walter Winchell. Stuart had been an INS wire reporter, publisher of Expose, which became The Individualist, a small sensationalist weekly, and ghost-writer for Winchell's column in the Daily Mirror. When the haughty Winchell got him mad, he sat down and in a few hours wrote a piece about the columnist that eventually became his second book, "The Secret Life of Walter Winchell." It was published in 1953 by the famous pirate Samuel Roth under one of his many incarnations, Boars Head Books. Winchell did not take the revelations lightly, he sent three thugs after Lyle. Their attack made great jacket copy for the book. Then Winchell got after Roth, who had many sins of piracy, pornography and copyright infringement, and had him sent to Lewisburg for a five year term. Winchel ranted against Lyle both in his column and on TV, until Lyle sued.
(Nicholas Atlas, Phil Wittenberg tk )

Lyle spent $8,000 of the award to finance the publishing of Dr. Coca's,tk in which the physician helps the reader self-diagnose his ailments based on pulse readings. The book is still in print, part of the Carol Group'sbacklist.

Other successes followed, until in 1970 he came to the idea of publishing "The Sensuous Woman," by J, a book he had commissioned his former publicity manager to write, as a cure for her pathological fear of the blank page. The title was a take-off of another book, and it was a runaway success, selling over a million copies in hard cover and 600,000 in paperback, plus translations, plus a sequel ("The Sensuous Man"), and at $6 a copy the series brought in some $2 million for the paper-shy author, not to speak of Lyle's share.

The book that gave Lyle the title idea was "Story of O," (Paris, 1954) by a pseudonymous Pauline Reage, describing the humiliations of a woman, who, for the sake of her lover permits herself to be turned into a slave and assaulted in any way by any man who desires her. Written in a cool De Sade narrative, it is an outcry for affection. The author, recently revealed, is Dominique Aury, a distinguished writer and editor, then 46, who wrote it as a love letter to Jean Paulhan, 70, a member of the Academie Francaise, one of Frances intellectual "Immortals," and her lover of three decades. Published, with Paulhan's introduction, by Jean-Jacques Pauvert in French and Maurice Girodias' Olympia Press in English, it was subject of both immediate literary acclaim and seizure of copies by the Brigade Mondaine (French vice squad).

Lyle's book was attuned to American idea of self-help, and essentially directed women in attaining successful sexual identities, much along the lines of what Cosmopolitan and other women's magazines teach today. It was a continuation of the books by Dr Albert Ellis of the Institute of Emotional Therapy, such as "Sex Without Guilt," one of Lyle's successful authors.

George Seldes, a social critic who died in 1995 at the age of 104 while revising his old biography of Mussolini - the oldest still active author listed in "Books in Print," - was another faithful author, as was Ferdinand Lundberg, of "The Rich and the Superrich," a sequel to "America's 60 Families."

Lyle himself is a successful author. His books "Casino Gambling for the Winner" and "Lyle Stuart on Baccarat" are studied by gamblers. The theory is backed up by fact - in 1994 alone Lyle has won two baccarat tournaments in Atlantic City, with purses of $125,000 each. Gambling is essentially part of Lyle's lifestyle and ego satisfaction - the controversial books he has published have been gambles. At a certain point he was known as the "breakthrough publisher," and others sent him authors whose books they were afraid to print.

Lyle has a superb sense of the ridiculous. In the early 1950s he was the business manager of E.C.Publications,Inc., the publisher of MAD, and persuaded William Gaines, the creator of Alfred E. Newman, to pull all the comic bookpublishers together and develop a Comic Books code. This was in 1954 after the Kefauver Commission (develop) DC Comics? Tales from the Crypt?

Not all of Lyle's book selections

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