Friday, May 30, 2014

Oscar Dystel, Bantam Books president

Oscar Dystel, Bantam Books president, dies at age 101

Oscar Dystel died May 28, at age 101. 

In 1954 he was hired as the president of Bantam Books, at that time a failing enterprise. A year later the firm was turning a profit, and when Dystel retired in 1980, the firm was earning $100 million yearly.

Dystel was responsible for printing best-sellers like Valley of the Dolls, A Catcher in the Rye and Jaws, as well as exerting influence over the cover art and presentation of the Bantam line.

He oversaw the acquisition and publication of many books that were part and parcel of being a sci-fi reader in the Baby Boomer era: Doc Savage (The Motion Menace, Doc Savage No. 64, September, 1971, is in the shelving just beside Dystel's left hand in the photo scanned above) and Star Trek being two of the most prominent series. 

But if you read Louis L'Amour Western novels, you also were reading Bantam titles. Same thing for so many of the 'fringe' books of the 60s and 70s: Chariots of the Gods, Limbo of the  Lost, The Devil's Triangle, Beyond Earth....

The Bantam Story 1970 and The Bantam Story 1975 images courtesy of the Fred Pfeiffer Artist blog

And chances are, many of the Bantam Books you read featured striking cover illustrations by James Bama, Bantam's top artist and a major reason behind the success of so many titles. 

And if you read A Seperate Peace, or anything by Herman Hesse, then you were most likely reading a Bantam Book..........

I think that tomorrow, when I'm out running some errands, I'll stop by the used bookstore on Seminole Trail / Route 29 here in Charlottesville, and see if I can find some neat Bantam Books among the shelving........


Craig Maher said...

Who is the arist for most of the covers in the last picture in this article? The beautiful white background illustrations?

tarbandu said...

Craig, a good question. The short answer is, no one knows, according to this 'Servitor Ludi' blog post: