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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER VICTOR TEMKIN
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Publisher of Berkley and Jove Books


Victor Temkin, who looks like a character out of Dickens and comes across with the gruff friendliness of television's Ed Asner, is sitting in his midtown office on Friday afternoon trying to deal with three things at once. The telephone is jangling, visitors are dropping by unannounced, and I'm throwing him questions about the publishing business.

What complicates matters is that Mr. Temkin is in the process of moving his offices to another floor; has ad and his staff of 80 are packing everything into cardboard boxes, and now it's impossible to find anything. But the short, pink-faced man with gold-framed spectacles takes it all in stride. He lights a Lucky Strike, props one hand against his chin, and explains how he got to be the head of Berkley Books, which has long been the paperback division of G.P. Putnam.

"I came to New York in 1960 as a lawyer. I became assistant U.S. attorney in '61. I stayed there till '64," he relates in short bursts of speech. "Then I went into private practice until September of 1967, when I got into the book business. I became house counsel at Bantam Books, and worked my way up, and later became a vice president. I came here in July of 1977 as president and chief executive officer.

"Since that time, we purchased Jove Books from Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. It's another paperback house. … Berkley does largely reprints of hardcovers, but Jove does exclusively paperback originals. Together, the two companies put out about 300 or 325 books a year. Of these, 120 are from Jove."

Berkley Books, he admits, is one of the smaller paperback houses, perhaps sixth or seventh. But the company manages to get its share of best-sellers. At New Year's two were in the nation's top 10 — Mommie Dearest by Christina Crawford and Nurse by Peggy Anderson. Mommie Dearest, says Temkin, "is the first time we've had a story of child abuse at that level off society, which I think is a great thing for the people to read. It isn't only poor kids that get beat up, it's the rich kids too — just as badly."

In terms of sales and profits, he says, "There's no such thing as an average book. It depends on what you pay for the advance and what the cost of manufacturing the book is. … I can have books sell 50,000 copies an............
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