October 29, 1984 12:00 PM

by Peter Schwed

For more than 35 years the author served successively as editor, publisher, then chairman of the editorial board of Simon & Schuster, the New York publishing house. These memoirs are just as gossipy and genial as any reader interested in the business side of books could want. S&S was founded in 1924 with $6,000 by Dick Simon (father of Carly) and Max Schuster. Their first publication, The Crossword Puzzle Book, and three subsequent puzzle books, sold more than a million copies the first year, and they were in business. Recently the company has set the publishing world on its ear by having 11 books at one time among the 30 on the New York Times best-seller list. Schwed’s book makes clear how such a parlay could happen. He is most admiring of Dick Snyder, current S&S president, whom he describes as “using methods that some find distressingly domineering,” but whom he credits with having “integrity, taste and judgment.” For a firm that has found much of its success by being on the cutting edge of such trends as bodybuilding and exercise, the praise seems a bit excessive, but S&S also publishes Joan Didion, John Gregory Dunne, Graham Greene, Mario Puzo and Justin Kaplan. And Snyder has held onto one of the most successful editors in the business, Michael Korda. The author knows when an in-house joke is fun even for readers who don’t know or care as much about S&S as he does, so Turning the Pages proves to be an entertaining look inside one of the most successful publishing houses. (Macmillan, $19.95)

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