WYNNE email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2003-04-22 published
He founded Readers' Club of Canada
Nationalist visionary struggled financially to publish Canadian writers
By Carol COOPER Special to The Globe and Mail Tuesday, April 22, 2003 - Page R7
In the early 1960s, when writers asked Peter and Carol MARTIN where to publish their manuscripts on Canada, the couple realized how few choices there were. Inspired, the Martins, both voracious readers, staunch nationalists and founders of the Readers' Club of Canada, decided to start their own press. In 1965, Peter Martin Associates came into being. Last month, Peter MARTIN died of lung cancer in Ottawa.
In an industry overshadowed by American companies, Peter MARTIN Associates was among the first in a wave of independent publishing houses to open during a time of rising Canadian nationalism.
Launched in a downtown Toronto basement on a shoestring budget, skeleton staff, idealism and enthusiasm, the company flew by the seat of its pants. Its employees were often young and new to the business. But many, including Peter CARVER, Michael SOLOMON and Valerie WYATT, went on to become Canadian mainstays.
"It really was a time of Canadian nationalism and those of us who believed in that cause could see what Peter and Carol were doing," said Ms. WYATT, a children's editor who spent four years with the company in the seventies.
During the 16 years before its sale in 1981, Peter Martin Associates published approximately 170 works, mainly non-fiction. Its presses put out I, Nuligak, the autobiography of an Inuit man; The Boyd Gang by Marjorie LAMB and Barry PEARSON; Trapping is My Life by John TETSO; and the Handbook of Canadian Film by Eleanor BEATTIE. Others who came through their doors included Hugh HOOD, Robert FULFORD, John Robert COLOMBO, Douglas FETHERLING and Mary Alice DOWNIE -- all to have their works published.
Started with small amounts of seed money from private investors and no government funding, Peter Martin Associates constantly struggled financially. At one point, for a bit of extra cash, the office became the designated nuclear-fallout shelter for the street. Pat DACEY, once the firm's book designer, lugged suitcases of books up the street to sell at Britnell's bookstore with summer employee Bronwyn DRAINIE.
Working at Peter Martin Associates was always fun, Ms. WYATT said. "You went in to work happy and you stayed happy all day."
Still, in a time when Canadian works received little recognition, she remembers finding it difficult to get media interviews for the author of Martin-published book.
Yet another title caused trouble with its subject. The company was putting out a collection of previously published sayings of former prime minister John DIEFENBAKER, called I Never Say Anything Provocative, edited by Margaret WENTE. Mr. DIEFENBAKER heard about the project, called Mr. MARTIN and threatened to sue. Mr. MARTIN stood firm.
"He handled it with such Úlan," said writer Tim WYNNE- JONES, then in the art department. "He was suitably dutiful, but not in awe. Mr. DIEFENBAKER was just over the top, as was his wont."
The book went to press and Mr. DIEFENBAKER did not go to court.
Once listed along with Peter GZOWSKI in a Maclean's magazine article on "Young Men to Watch," Mr. MARTIN was born on April 26, 1934 in Ottawa to a dentist father and a mother who drove an ambulance in the First World War. The younger of two sons, he attended Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ontario and the University of Toronto, where he earned a degree in philosophy.
During a year in Ottawa as the president of the National Federation of University Students, Mr. MARTIN met his first wife Carol. They married in 1956 and moved to Toronto. Three years later, they founded the Readers' Club in Featuring one Canadian book a month, it distributed works by Mordecai RICHLER, Irving LAYTON, Morley CALLAGHAN and Brian MOORE among others, and supplied its members with coupons. While continuing to run the Readers' Club (sold in 1978 to Saturday Night Magazine and closed in 1981), the MARTINs started Peter Martin Associates.
Throughout his career, Mr. MARTIN spoke out for Canadian publishing. Alarmed by the sale of Ryerson Press and Gage Educational Press in 1970 to American firms, he called a meeting of publishers to discuss problems in the industry. Named the Independent Publishers Association, the group started in 1971 with 16 members and with Mr. MARTIN as its first president. In 1976, it was renamed the Association of Canadian Publishers and continues today with 140 members. As a result of the group's efforts, Canadian publishing began to receive federal and provincial funding.
In the late 1970s, the MARTINs went their separate ways. Afterward, Mr. MARTIN published a small newspaper, The Downtowner, and owned a cookbook store with his second wife, Maggie NIEMI. In 1983, they moved near Sudbury, Ontario, where Mr. MARTIN did freelance book and theatre reviews, then moved to Ottawa in 1985 to work as president for Balmuir Books, publisher of the magazine International Perspectives and consulting editor for the University of Ottawa Press.
After a spinal-cord injury in 1997, Mr. MARTIN was left a quadriplegic, except for limited use of his left arm. Even so, he remained active, maintained a heavy e-mail correspondence and spent time in the park reading while seated in a bright-yellow wheelchair.
Mr. MARTIN leaves his children Pamela, Christopher and Jeremy and his wife Maggie NIEMI. He died on March 15.
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