Martin and Judith Shepard, co-publishers of the venerable Permanent Press–about which the New York Times once featured an article entitled “Turning Out Literary Gems on a Shoestring”–are themselves venerable nowadays, having each achieved that alliterative age when the luckiest number twins itself in experiential glory: 77. Yet much to their surprise, they find themselves relative youngsters among some of their more recent (so to speak) authors. Remarkably, of the nine novels the Press will publish between October 2012 and June 2013, seven are by authors more than seventy-years-old, with two octogenarians in the mix.
Of course if The Permanent Press had set out to publish seniors, none of this would be a surprise. But that’s not what happened. Back in 2011 the publisher brought out 16 books, with none written by an author entitled to social security. So how does this happen? One year youth, the next experience? The Shepards would say that the leveling factor is quality. That’s all they look for. Details about who and where the quality comes from, while potentially interesting (as in this case), play no role in their editorial decisions. In fact, had they sought to do a series by golden-age scribes, the idea would have probably rent at the seams. Instead, they’ve done it accidentally. So be on the lookout for worldly-wise work from K.C. Frederick, 76, Looking for Przybylski; Anne Bernays, 81, The Man on the Third Floor; Suzanne McNear, 77, Knock, Knock; William Eisner, 78, The Stone Lion; Daniel Klein, 73, Nothing Serious; Christopher Davis, 84, The Conduct of Saints; and Marc Davis, 77, Bottom Line.