A Filing Cabinet, Some Contracts, and Kate Duffy

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I was surprised and saddened to see in the Times this A.M. that Kate Duffy had died.

I had put my toe in publishing waters by agreeing to become Ron Busch's West Coast scout for his new publishing venture, Tudor Publishing, a new mass-market paperback house. One day, out of the blue, Ron told us he was going into the hospital for bypass surgery. He died the next day. Stan Corwin and I were partnered on various ventures then, and I suggested we buy Tudor and become the publishers ourselves. We put together a deal, and bought the company.

Within a few weeks we were in New York inspecting our new property, which consisted, in its entirety, as follows: First we had an office, a dingy fluorescent-illuminated lower Park Avenue cell, with a steel desk and a two-drawer beige filing cabinet that Ron must have found in a vacant lot somewhere. In the cabinet was a distribution contract with our mass-market distributors, Kable News, ten contracts for paperback books in various stages of development, and some manuscripts. And there was also a chair, and a person in that chair. Our sole employee. Kate Duffy, our Editor in Chief.

Kate held all the knowledge of Ron Busch's vision for Tudor. Our job was to get out of her way, to let her fill the pipeline of our first list. I busied myself with finding our new office/apartment. I found a beautiful spot down the street from our distributors, at the corner of 49th and 2nd, on the 25th floor with 90 feet of glass. Views of the U.N. and up and down the entire length of 2nd Ave. I discovered a fantastic cache of antiques for rent on Roosevelt Island, and had the place furnished in a day. Kate's desk was the pièce de résistance: an ornate French inlaid number with brass trimmings. When Kate first perched at it in her new corner with its spectacular view, She thought I was nuts, that it was too good for her. But she confided to us, "Now I really am Queen of Romances."

Within a few days an author came by with a crazy Elvis book, and before long, we had purchased it. With Kate's coaching I reserved enough press time to get more than a million copies, and a million cassette tapes shrunk to it, into print. Soon we had our first paperback bestseller together: Is Elvis Alive? made the N.Y. Times list.

Kate was my mentor in those early days at Tudor. Beloved by her authors, unflappable, funny and without pretence.

If I still had that original filing cabinet, I'd have it bronzed in her honor. Kate Duffy had mass-market ink running in her veins. She was a book editor, through and through.