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Do you remember what they were?
Yes. The first one was a book by Adria Locke Langley.
It was about Huey Long. Next to the magnificent book by
Robert Penn Warren on the same subject, All the King's Men,
this was awful. A Lion in the Streets I think this was
called. It became an enormous best-seller. I looked at the
reader's report, which was done by a very good girl that was
with us at the time, and her report for us consisted of one
sentence: “Forty pages of this magnolia laden crap was all
that I could stand.” So I called her in and said that in
the future I would take care of the humor at Random House
and that I wanted more detailed reports. “But,” I said,
“From what I've seen of the book, you're absolutely right.”
What was number two? Do you remember?
Number two was a book by Lester Cohn. I forget its
name. It was another inferior book. It didn't stay up
there very long. It was number two for two or three weeks,
but then faded fast.
I put a notice on a bulletin board that said,
“Congratulations to our magnificent board of editors. We've
turned down the number one and number two best-sellers on
the Times list this week!" But every publisher has made
similar mistakes. The Good Earth was turned down by about
a dozen publishers. Bad Girl was turned down by about
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