August 6, 2020

Richard Marek, Editor of Hemingway, Baldwin and Ludlum, Dies at 86

Without a good pitch, his sales manager told him, he might as well just give the book away.

That, Mr. Marek thought, was a brilliant idea.

He soon ordered 10,000 copies printed and had the book jackets marked so that the books couldn’t be returned to the publisher. Then he gave them away to booksellers. In exchange, the booksellers agreed to display the book prominently, often in their front windows.

The publishing industry was aghast, but the book was a hit, selling millions of copies and becoming an instant classic for generations of medical students.

One of Mr. Marek’s former editorial assistants, Erika Goldman, wrote in a 2017 essay that she had learned about editing in part from reading manuscripts that he had edited while she was making Xerox copies of them.

“This was how I learned what line editing was — and where, why and how much a good editor should intervene in an author’s text,” wrote Ms. Goldman, who is now publisher and editorial director of Bellevue Literary Press.

“Dick Marek may have had a paperback of a Henry James novel in his raincoat pocket for subway reading,” she said, “but he knew how to edit for plot.”

ImageMr. Marek in an undated photo. “I loved books and wanted my whole life to be around books,” he said. He also wrote novels.
Credit…Pamela Barkentin

Richard William Marek was born on June 14, 1933, in Manhattan and grew up there. His father, George R. Marek, was vice president and general manager of RCA Victor Record Division and a biographer of classical composers. His mother, Muriel (Heppner) Marek, was a homemaker.

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