Format Hardcover
Publication Date 08/29/23
ISBN 9781639364459
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 336

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The Maverick

George Weidenfeld and the Golden Age of Publishing

Thomas Harding

A New York Times Critics’ Pick for 2023

“Like George Weidenfeld himself, Thomas Harding's accomplishment is substantial, lively, and full of interest. The Maverick is a fine biography.” —Henry Kissinger

The captivating story of the famed publisher George Weidenfeld, from his struggles as an Austrian-Jewish refugee in London to his rise as a world-renowned literary figure.

After arriving in London just before World War Two as a penniless Austrian-Jewish refugee, George Weidenfeld went on to transform not only the world of publishing but the culture of ideas. The books that he published include momentous titles such as Lolita, Double Helix, The Group, and The Hedgehog and the Fox, with authors he championed ranging from Joan Didion, Mary McCarthy, JD Salinger, and Edna O’Brien to Henry Miller, Harold Wilson, Saul Bellow, and Henry Kissinger. His role as publisher brought him into the orbit of influential figures such as George Bush, Ann Getty, Donald Trump, and LBJ.

In this first biography, Thomas Harding provides a full, unvarnished, and at times difficult history of this complex and fascinating character. Throughout his long career, he was written about in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time Magazine, Vanity Fair, and other publications. Was he, as described by some, the “greatest salesperson,” “the world’s best networker,” “the publisher’s publisher,” and “a great intellectual”? Was his lifelong effort to be the world’s most famous host a cover for his desperate loneliness? Who, in fact, was the real George Weidenfeld and how did he rise so successfully within the ranks of New York and London society?

Drawing on author correspondence, internal memos, and other documents buried deep in the secret publishing files of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Harding crafts a portrait of the publisher's life that is inextricable from the efforts and intricacies of putting a book into the world. Structured around twenty books associated with George Weidenfeld, and intercut with explorations of contemporary concerns such as cancel culture, the right to publish, freedom of speech, and separating the art from the artist, The Maverick tells the captivating story behind the life of this iconic publisher.

Thomas Harding is a bestselling author whose books have been translated into more than sixteen languages. He is the author of Hanns and Rudolf, which won the JQ-Wingate Prize for Non-Fiction; The House by the Lake, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award; Blood on the Page, which won the Crime Writers’ Association “Golden Dagger Award” for nonfiction; and most recently, White Debt, which the Guardian described as “striking [and] full of details that will send a chill down your spine.” Thomas lives in Florence, Italy.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"Against this tech-inflected landscape, Thomas Harding’s new biography of George Weidenfeld floats as if on stained foolscap. We won’t see the likes of this fellow again. Weidenfeld would assemble a catalog bulging with many of the 20th century’s most important authors: literary novelists, philosophers, scientists, celebrities, democratic leaders. Though he enjoyed his comforts, Weidenfeld was less motivated by riches than ideas and people. Judging from Harding’s work, Weidenfeld was neither hedgehog nor fox, but—aptly, considering his beloved Nabokov’s favorite hobby—butterfly.” Alexandra Jacobs, The New York Times
"'A skillful and subtle study in biography, British attitudes, and the book business." The Wall Street Journal, Dominic Green
“The Maverick is packed with fascinating accounts of book deals and debacles during the 'golden age of publishing.' [An] entertaining biography.” The Washington Post, Michael Dirda
"I read it overnight. An entertaining read for those who enjoy literary gossip in which the list of dropped names is dazzling. A publisher of legitimate distinction, there is no one quite like Weidenfeld in the trade these days." Peter Osnos, Air Mail
"Thomas Harding’s admirably even-handed and readable biography places Weidenfeld in both his social and cultural contexts, never excusing his more dubious actions, but also celebrating his undeniable pizzazz, application and drive." The Guardian
"There's plenty to admire in this unconventional biography of George Weidenfeld. The Maverick is a sensitive and worthy study of a great man." The Jewish Chronicle
“Like George Weidenfeld himself, Thomas Harding's accomplishment is substantial, lively, and full of interest. The Maverick is a fine biography.” Henry Kissinger
“The Maverick anchors George Weidenfeld as one of the foremost influencers in modern literature and a man who rose from extraordinary circumstances to lead an even more extraordinary life and legacy. A treasure trove of insight and history.” Arianna Huffington, Founder & CEO, Thrive Global 
"The life story of the complex man at the forefront of British publishing. A sympathetic, discerning portrait of a publishing titan." Kirkus Reviews
"If the name Arthur George Weidenfeld is unfamiliar to the casual reader, the list of books bearing his imprint is evidence of his enormous impact during decades in publishing. Harding admirably details Weidenfeld’s ascent from refugee to a leading figure who shaped our culture and intellectual firmament." Booklist, starred review