Publisher Peter Mayer dies at age 82

NEW YORK (AP) — Peter Mayer, a leading mainstream and independent publisher of the past half century who acquired such million-selling books as “Up the Down Staircase” and “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and was known for his innovative and volatile style, died Friday at age 82.

Mayer’s daughter, Liese Mayer, told The Associated Press he died at his Manhattan home of complications related to amyloidosis.

In an email Friday to The Associated Press, a former publishing colleague and executive, William Shinker, called him “a brilliant & charismatic publisher and a gifted business man.”

“He was also a friend & mentor to many men & women in publishing on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Mayer was a London native and Columbia University graduate who broke into book publishing in the early 1960s. At Avon Books he demonstrated a knack for finding unexpected best-sellers, especially during an era when different companies often released a book’s hardcover and paperback editions.

Mayer had driven a taxi for several years and was told by another driver about a coming-of-age novel written in the 1930s and long forgotten: Henry Roth’s “Call it Sleep.” Mayer found a copy at the New York Public Library, tracked down the owner of the book’s copyright and, for $2,500, purchased paperback rights for a novel that went on to sell more than a million copies and was praised as a literary classic.

Mayer received numerous honors, including France’s Chevalier medal and a lifetime achievement award from the London Book Fair.