Friday, June 14, 2013
BANTAM'S VICE PRES. FRED KLEIN AND HIS NEXT THIRTY YEARS
THE NEXT THIRTY YEARS
At the age of ninety, Fred Klein’s years are woven into the history of publishing, writing, and the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference like the words on the yellowed pages of a well-read novel. For thirty years in New York City Fred was Vice President of Bantam Books, head of marketing and ultimately Executive Editor. “Who can say these days they worked for only one company for thirty years?” Fred is astonished by his own record. of achievements. He never guessed those three decades would represent a mere third of his prestigious career.
After retiring to Santa Barbara, California he became a part of The Santa Barbara Writers Conference and helped create The Santa Barbara Book and Author Festival His literary life is rich with celebrity experiences both personal and professional. When asked, are you a dog owner, he laughs and answers in a voice as deep and rich as his career, “No dogs! I don’t look like a dog owner, do I?”
What Fred Klein doesn’t look like is his age. He leaned back is his chair comfortable with the new generation of writers before him.” I walk on the beach every day. Five years ago I had a quadruple bypass and only missed three days. Within a week it was as if I never had surgery.”
Is it difficult to keep up with the new technology, one interviewer queries? Again his voice resonates as his peeps listen. “I carry a cell phone only when I travel, and then, only to receive calls because I’m not sure how to make one.” But, in contrast, he streams weekly on the local Santa Barbara TV channel 17 called, Literary Gumbo in which he interviews authors. “I believe in giving a voice to all authors in the area.”
“Everyone has asked who I’ve published, but let me tell you about one that I didn’t publish.” Fred sat up as the memory came alive. “A man called me with a proposal for a book. The Godfather had just become a hit and the man suggested a story about what happens to the children of mafia families.” Fred agreed and grew excited about the possibility, prematurely running with the title, “Godson.”
“For the initial interview, I flew to Phoenix, Arizona and the man and I rode around the city for three hours as he elaborated about the people he’d “offed” in Las Vegas and Chicago. We couldn’t meet in public where he might be seen so he stipulated any further contacts and questions would have to be conducted through his agent.
In the publishing world everything has to be validated and indemnified. My boss insisted we had to have proof, who was this guy, who was his mafia family? So I would call the agent, his agent would call him, and then he would call me. I asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He explained he was an alcoholic and joined a twelve step program and it would be his way of making amends. Finally, we insisted and the man agreed to send proof. A week later I received a video of the man I had spent three hours in the car with riding the streets of Phoenix. The clip demonstrated the man pushing another man into a vat of molten steel at an Indiana steel mill.”
“We never published the book.”
The peeps in the crowd roared. “I have a million stories.” He told them.
“Two weeks ago my old boss called me to tell me about a dream he had in which he and I had started a mystery book publishing company and we called it The one eighty – The two ninety year old men publishing company. We laughed it off, but who knows?”
At the age of ninety Fred Klein offered up his philosophy on the secret of growing old: Stay positive and become Involved, no matter if it is with your family, your church or your community. Find something to be committed to and become passionate about it.
Stayed tuned for Fred Klein's next thirty years.