When he was 9, Ashmead went to see an author give a book reading. But what really opened his eyes was to learn that the author had a day job as a book editor, choosing what books to publish. Wonderful! Ashmead’s new goal in life was to do that, and he succeeded, working with authors like Isaac Asimov, Quentin Crisp, Tony Hillerman, Susan Isaacs, Michael Korda, and Simon Winchester, and working for major publishers including Doubleday, Simon & Schuster, Lippincott, and Harper & Row (later HarperCollins). Once, when visiting a London publisher, Ashmead saw a proposal for a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. The publisher was going to reject it. “I can make this a best seller,” Ashmead said. Sure enough, Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman not only became a best-seller, it’s currently in production as a feature film. Ashmead retired in 2003, and died September 3 from pneumonia. He was 78.
From This is True for 5 September 2010