Michael Korda, editor of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Larry McMurtry, David McCullough and countless others in a long career, will relinquish his full-time position at Simon & Schuster, the publisher announced Wednesday.
"After 47 years, I felt it was time to get off the stage, or at least into the wings," said Korda, 72.
After stepping down as editor in chief at the end of the year, he will hold the title "editor in chief emeritus" and continue to edit McCullough, Mary Higgins Clark and others, but otherwise will concentrate on his own books. Simon & Schuster is part of the media conglomerate Viacom Inc. The publisher had no immediate comment on who would take over the top spot.
"I won't be going to meetings anymore. That alone will free up a lot of time," he said with a laugh.
Since joining Simon & Schuster in 1958, as Henry Simon's editorial assistant, Korda has had a remarkable career in publishing, both for the time spent with one company and for the people he has worked with: former presidents, Pulitzer Prize winners such as McCullough and McMurtry, and famous names such as Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins. Korda became Simon & Schuster's editor in chief in 1968.
As his own books, including "Charmed Lives" and "Another Life," have proved, he is also a born storyteller with enviable material. The son of English actress Gertrude Musgrove and the nephew of film impresario Alexander Korda, he grew up around artists and celebrities, including Vivien Leigh, David O. Selznick and Graham Greene, whom he later edited.
Asked to cite a highlight of his long career, Korda hesitated, then mentioned the publication of McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove," winner of the Pulitzer for fiction in 1986 and a bestseller that became the basis for a beloved TV miniseries.
"He would write book after book that I liked, and at every meeting I would get up and say, 'One of these days Larry McMurtry is going to write the great novel of the American West, the "Moby-Dick" of the Plains.' And 'Lonesome Dove' fulfilled everything I had been saying about him."
Korda has had health problems in recent years, including prostate cancer and a heart attack, but has remained active as an editor and a writer. He and his wife, Margaret, have just published a pair of books, "Horse Housekeeping" and "Cat People," and he is planning a "big, big" biography of Dwight Eisenhower and a work on the Battle of Britain.
"I know plenty of people who think the magic in publishing is gone, but I don't," he said.