Posts from January 2011
Posted by Carole Stuart on January 27, 2011
ALLAN J. WILSON died on January 17th He was 94 years old
Allan Wilson, longtime editor and friend, was a partner with Morris Sorkin in Citadel Press that was later purchased by Lyle Stuart, Inc. Both Morris and Allan were with the company up to and after Lyle sold it to Carol Publishing. He was comfortably passed retirement when the sale took place but Lyle made Stephen Schragis promise to keep Allan and Morris on. That he did. Morris eventually retired and then died but Allan stayed on. Ultimately, Carol Publishing let Allen go. Lyle and I told Allan he would always have a desk at Barricade Books. He was delighted and soon was traveling from NYC, where he lived to Ft Lee, NJ by bus. The work and journey soon became more than he could handle and he no longer came to the office.
Allan J. Wilson’s book career started in l941 when he worked at Concord Books, a famous bookstore on Broadway. He purchased the store in 1951. It specialized in remainders, purchased in large lots either from wholesalers or directly from the publisher. Allan Wilson was also, as we shall see, a partner in the Jack Woodford Press. From Macmillan he got many copies of Ian Fleming novels, which sold wonderfully just at the start of Fleming‚s popularity in this country. Other big sellers were James Jones’ From Here to Eternity. From Jack Brussel he got sexologist Ivan Bloch’s book on de Sade, and a book about practical mathematics, Magic with Figures, the rights to which he eventually sold to Barnes and Noble, which published it under the title Math Without a Computer. Allan would buy as many as 4,000 books for a dime apiece and sell them for 39 or 49 cents. His general stock brought in people of all classes, and included the famous, among its customers O. Henry, Marlene Dietrich, and FDR. Allen sported checks for books ordered by FDR and Harry Truman. He sold half a million books in 1958, many to theatergoers. But this was his last good year. The advent of paperbacks and the consequent decline in sales of any kind of hardback hurt the Concord, as did the closing of the Paramount Theater, and the hardening of Times Square’s reputation as a dangerous place to be after dark. The Concord got increasingly less attention from theater and movie goers, who did not like to share sidewalk space with people who were rowdy, drunk, or high on reefers (a quaint name for marijuana) Such characters, when they wandered into the Concord, made other customers uneasy. They brought the scent of recklessness and defiance from the street into a respectable establishment. More and more playgoers left the area as soon as their shows were over. When Wilson closed his doors in 1965, the Journal American and the Times ran tributes, as did Walter Winchell. Lyle worked at Concord as a young man and it was there that they started a relationship that spanned close to sixty years.
Alllan’s last years were spent in an assisted living apartment where he was looked after very nicely by the staff and a private aide, Ana Al who his nephew, Jimmy Tannenbaum provided. Allan really took to Ana Al, and the feeling was mutual. Allan never married although he had several long-term relationships with ladies. He had no siblings or children but thanks to Jimmy Tannenbaum and Ana Al, he had the comfort of a real family in his last year. Ana took him home with her from time to time and he experienced family, dogs and all.
He almost made it to 95. That was his wish.
Most of his productive years were filled with books, travel, cigars, vodka and gambling. He went to casinos but most of all, he loved the track. He’d go to the track every week and then the “track” was OTB.
He had quite a publishing career. He was a terrific editor and in his time made some best sellers including Evelyn Keyes’ SCARLETT O’HARA’S YOUNGER SISTER, by Evelyn Keyes. He produced some 140 books for Citadel Press in their famous “Films Of” series that featured illustrated books about such stars as Humphrey Bogart, Gregory Peck and many others.
Donald Bain, an author and friend, said “He truly was a gentleman and I treasure memories of having drinks with him at the Gramercy Park Hotel, a favorite haunt of his. He could be demanding (he edited CAVIAR! CAVIAR! CAVIAR!) I always loved working with him.”
Allan was buried in his family’s grave plot next to his mother in Valhalla New York in the Mount Pleasant cemetery.
Lyle called Allan a bon vivant. He wore an ascot tie, smoked cigars and held open doors for ladies. Lyle said he reminded him of Franchot Tone. He was quite a gentleman.
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