Bob Silverstein, president of Quicksilver Books Literary Agency and part of the New York literary world for almost fifty years, died last Saturday at the age of 76. Silverstein’s agency, a former book packaging and publishing firm, was behind the bestsellers Last Tango in Paris, Chariots of Fire, Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office, and Children Learn What They Live, among many others.
After graduating from City College, Silverstein served as managing editor of Dell Books, and senior editor of both Delacorte Press and Bantam Books, where he worked with such authors as Rod Serling, Irwin Shaw, filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles, anthropologist Richard Milner, Dick Gregory, and many more. Earlier in his career, he worked as story editor for Anthony Quinn Productions and as a senior unit publicist for United Artists, MGM, Carlo Ponti, Harry Belafonte, and David Wolper on major motion pictures throughout Europe and the United States.
Silverstein's film background helped him to pioneer publishing novelizations of films. “Books had often been turned into films,” he told a friend, “but not the other way around. When Bernardo Bertolucci’s controversial Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando, was about to come out, I had a strong hunch it would become an instant sensation, and wanted to novelize the script. The producers, not imagining its potential as a made-to-order novel, sold me the rights for $5,000.” Silverstein then commissioned Robert Alley to write the book, which became an international bestseller in 1973 and was eventually published in dozens of languages.