A Letter From The Publisher, Mar. 7, 1949

  • Share
  • Read Later

TIME'S Books editor, Max Gissen, and Researcher Ruth Mehrtens have found the ideal locale for interviewing a TIME cover subject: an uninhabited island in the Caribbean. It is completely relaxing, and there are no interruptions.

Their discovery occurred during the long interrogation of Author John P. Marquand for his cover story in this issue. In Marquand's case there was a great deal of controversial material to be gone over, and Gissen's and Miss Mehrtens' talks with him, which began in TIME'S offices in Manhattan, were by no means finished when it was time for the Marquands to go to Nassau for their winter vacation. So the conversations were continued in Nassau. The most successful of them took place the day that Author Marquand hired a sloop and conveyed Gissen and Miss Mehrtens to a deserted island, where they spent a peaceful, uninterrupted day. On the way home, however, Researcher Mehrtens, still making notes, was taken seasick. Although she fought it off, she suggests the following procedure for such occasions: "If you have to take shorthand on a sloop, don't do it for any length of time. It's that business of looking constantly down at a pad."

During her stay in Nassau, Miss Mehrtens found out, too, that Mrs. Marquand had once applied for a job as a TIME Inc. researcher. "I said I could speak five languages and I thought they would snap me up," she told Miss Mehrtens, "but just about the time they were getting around to thinking about it I got married."

All of this time Marquand, contrary to prior warnings from some sources, was a completely cooperative subject, and Gissen and Miss Mehrtens returned to New York refreshed and certain that they had their story.

During the war, Gissen served four years in the U.S. Army, two of them in Europe with the 26th Infantry Division. A Vermonter and a graduate (1932) of Clark University in Worcester, Mass, he was a book reviewer and article writer for the New Republic before the war. After being mustered out, he joined TIME in 1946. In his job Gissen's wartime experience often comes in handy — for instance, last year, when General Ike Eisenhower's book, Crusade in Europe, was ready for publication.

Needing some background for his review, Gissen managed to arrange for the only interview Eisenhower would grant before publication date. It was to be off the record and was to last 15 minutes. When he was ushered into the general's office on the Columbia University campus, Gissen shook hands and said: "Well, general, the last time I saw you we were both covered with mud." Eisenhower wanted to know where that was and when. Gissen recalled a scene in France in November, 1944 when he and other officers of the 26th Division assembled for mess in the village of Benestroff. "It was wretched," said Gissen, "everything and everybody was covered with mud, and even the 4th Armored Division's tanks had bogged down in it." Somebody noticed another muddied man present, wearing no insignia, and asked if it wasn't Eisenhower. It was.

General Eisenhower remembered the incident, rattled off the units that were there, the next day's plan of attack and the result. Then they were off and, an hour and a half later, the 15-minute interview ended.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2