Byron Dobell RIP: A Great Editor Who Told Good Stories

Byron Dobell: Editor, writer, artist.

Byron Dobell, an editor at Time-Life, Esquire and New York magazine who played a pivotal role in the careers of Tom Wolfe, Mario Puzo and other writers, died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 89.

New York Times, January 24, 2017
I got to know Byron while judging the National Magazine Awards and he was a wonderfully gracious, interesting man. He was the editor who gave me this anecdote posted earlier about Clay Felker.

In the late 1960s, in the early days of New York magazine, Clay Felker was the highest profile editor in America. He had Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, and other star writers, and he seemed to be ahead of the pack on every new idea, every new thing. That ended in 1976 after Felker got overextended and lost New York magazine to Rupert Murdoch.

After the fall, one of Felker’s editors told me what it was like to be at New York in the early days. He said Felker went to lots of parties and dinners at night and would come in the next morning full of story ideas. The other editors also had story ideas, but Felker didn’t seem to want to listen.

This editor figured out a strategy: He’d ask Felker’s assistant where Felker was going that night. If this editor knew someone also likely to be there, he’d call and suggest that this someone might want to bring up an idea or subject with Felker and mention that lots of people seemed to be talking about it. Sure enough, this editor said, Felker would come in the next morning, telling his editors about this great idea he’d picked up at a party the night before.



    Dear Jack,

    Now that was a resourceful editor! Are there any left of those today?

    Barney Collier

  2. Elizabeth Dobell says

    Thanks for this!
    Elizabeth Dobell (Byron’s daughter)

  3. Paul Hale says

    How amazing that you knew Byron. So did I. Hope to see you at Byron’s memorial service, if not before.
    Paul Hale

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