Volume 76, Number 13 | August 16 - 22, 2006

Obituary

George P. Penty, 77, political writer and editor

By Albert Amateau

George P. Penty, a writer and editor whose colleagues and cronies included such literary luminaries as Bruce Jay Friedman, Martin Cruz Smith, John Bowers and Dorothy Gallagher, died Aug. 5 at the age of 77 of congestive heart failure at the Village Nursing Home.

A Village resident with Edith, his wife of 39 years, he was renowned as an astute political writer who, next to New York, loved Paris, where from 1948-’50 he studied at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques and hung out in Montparnasse cafes with the likes of Art Buchwald.

He transferred his affection for cafes to the Village where his favorite haunt was 55 Bar and Grill on Christopher St.

“The 55 was a natural for George. Anyone from anywhere might show up. Maurice Girodious of Olympia Press and Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press, drank there. And George could often be found there, holding forth and always in a jacket and tie,” recalled Bowers, his friend and author of “The Colony” and “Stonewall Jackson, Portrait of a Soldier.”

Born in Cleveland, Penty was raised in Florida and retained Southern speech and manners wherever he went.

“What George had was an unmistakable voice with a Southern twist and 10 insinuations per sentence. He was devilishly accurate and his timing was acute,” said Cruz Smith, whose first book — before he wrote the best-selling “Gorky Park” — was commissioned by Penty.

After graduating from the University of Florida in Gainesville, Penty worked in the South for a while as a union organizer. He published his first article in The Nation when he was 22 and contributed articles to The Saturday Review and the French newspaper Combat.

In the early 1950s he worked for Newsweek, and in the 1960s he was a writer and editor with Magazine Management, publishers of several magazines, where Friedman was his colleague. He later was an editor with Belmont/Tower Books, a publisher of paperbacks, commissioning books and writing several successful ones himself.

Mario Puzo, the late author of “The Godfather” whose earlier work was commissioned by Penty, inscribed his mentor’s copy of the best-selling novel, “For George, who helped teach me the tricks that made this book sell. (The dirty tricks.) Best, Mario.”

Penty’s wife said a date for a fall memorial service would be announced later.

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