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When Torgoff was hired as an Associate Editor by Grosset & Dunlap at the age of twenty two, it was his entrée into the world of books and the New York literary scene.  He soon found himself rubbing elbows with the likes of Mario Puzo, James Jones, Garson Kanin, and many other stellar literary figures who would influence him. A lunch with the legendary literary agent Swifty Lazar led to his company publishing RN, the controversial memoirs of ex-President Richard Nixon. As Grosset was pioneering the “coffee table” book with titles like Marilyn by Norman Mailer, Torgoff’s specialty became oversized illustrated trade paperbacks on pop cultural subjects, and he had the opportunity to work on many interesting ones, both on staff at Grosset & Dunlap, and free-lance. Among them was Reggie Jackson’s Scrapbook, which Torgoff created by using a comprehensive photo-retrospective of his career to interview the Yankee star in the wake of hitting three dramatic home runs in the 1977 World Series, turning Jackson’s comments into text. But perhaps the two books that most exemplify the diversity of his interests were The Woody Guthrie Songbook and The Things I Love by Liberace. Torgoff put together the Guthrie book with the full cooperation of Guthrie’s family and associates, and it became the definitive collection of his music, art, and musical annotations. The Liberace book was exactly what the title implied, with the star showing off and talking intimately about his homes, pianos, furnishings, jewelry, clothes and cars, rendered in his own unctuously campy voice with the help of the BBC’s Tony Palmer, replete with suitably gaudy four color spreads. The Guthrie book was a deeply respectful testament to a folk legend and American icon; the Liberace book, a splurge into the extravagance and glitz of his lifestyle. All three books were early and very successful examples of what would become a whole trend of illustrated “scrapbooks” in trade publishing.


Woody Guthrie Songbook

Woody Guthrie Songbook

Reggie Jackson's Scrapbook

Reggie Jackson's Scrapbook

The Things I Love by Liberace

The Things I Love by Liberace

A spread from Woody Guthrie's songbook.

The view from Liberace's bed.

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