Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Books for the News, Literature

Staff Profile: Levi Stahl on community and the Parker novels

It’s #UPWeek, and you can read more about it here. The theme—for year 38, the 79th university of the AAUP—is community, and with that in mind, we asked associate marketing director Levi Stahl to talk a bit about a series of crime noir qua boilerplate mystery novels written by Donald E. Westlake, under the pseudonym Richard Stark, and  Stahl’s effort to tap into the community surrounding the cult novelist, an unusual move by a university press:
            Reading is a solitary activity. That’s one of its glories.
 But for a lot of us, it’s also just the first step. After reading, we want to tell people about what we’ve read, recommend it, discuss it, argue about it. And that’s where community begins.
We experienced that, powerfully, back in 2008, when we decided to bring back into print Richard Stark’s crime novels featuring Parker the heister. We knew they were brilliant crime novels and that people over the years had loved them. What we learned very quickly, however, was that by bringing these back, we were joining the crime fiction community—and those are readers who aren’t shy about sharing their enthusiasm. The excitement, seen everywhere from review coverage to blogs to Twitter, was infectious, and the amount of personal recommendation, one reader to another, was astonishing. We marketed the books, because that’s what we do. But our efforts paled next to the marketing done by fans, for no reason other than that they wanted to share something they loved with other people. Eight years, 23 novels, and one nonfiction collection later, I remain astonished by the number of people we’ve interacted with because of these books; the number of times readers have thanked us; and how we’ve thanked them. Making readers happy: isn’t that why we all went into publishing in the first place?
Levi Stahl is the associate marketing director at the University of Chicago Press and the editor of The Getaway Car: A Donald E. Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany. He tweets about books as @levistahl.

To read more about the Richard Stark novels published by the University of Chicago Press, click here.

To read more content from the #UPWeek blog tour, click here and read Diana Gilroy on Purdue University Press’s Human-Animal Bond series.