Faces on Fifth: Peter Joseph at St. Martin’s Press

In this installment of “Faces on Fifth,” our look at the professionals who live and work on Fifth Avenue, we speak to Peter Joseph of St. Martin’s Press, the distinguished publishing house located in the iconic Flatiron Building at 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue.

Starting as the editorial assistant to celebrated editor Thomas Dunne, Joseph’s decade at St. Martin’s has seen him evolve into one of the publishing house’s mystery editors in addition to his work with literary fiction and non-fiction.

“I have the chance to work with a broad range of material, which is one of the great things about working at St. Martin’s,” Joseph says.

One of his favorite mystery authors to work with is Steve Hamilton, whose “The Lock Artist” won the prestigious Edgar Award in 2011; the novel, about a mute young man who gains the ability to open any locked door, was the first book Joseph collaborated on with Hamilton. “It was exciting to see the way that work really jump-started Hamilton’s career as a whole,” Joseph says. “It resulted in a whole new series for him – and I was humbled when he dedicated his most recent book to me.”

A book Joseph is particularly proud to have worked with is “The Elephant Whisperer”, by the late South African conservationist and environmental writer Lawrence Anthony.  The book, an account of the Earth Day Award-winning Anthony’s successful attempt to save a herd of elephants from being shot as a public danger, was commemorated after the author’s passing in an odd way. “Elephants living on the nature reserve that Anthony founded began to visit his grave,” Joseph says. “Including the herd that he had saved.”

Another favorite project of Joseph’s, Alice Sparberg Alexiou’s book, “The Flatiron: The New York Landmark and the Incomparable City That Arose with It”, would seem to be a natural fit for St. Martin’s Press from the company’s location onward.  Alexiou had previously published the first biography of the noted urban theorist Jane Jacobs, and her volume on the Flatiron Building is a fascinating look at the utopian impulses and grand dreams that motivated New York’s nascent skyline.  “The book was the basis for an episode of the WNET Thirteen television series ‘Treasures of New York,’” Joseph says. “It’s fascinating to see a work make a transition into a different medium.”

As for working in the Flatiron itself, Joseph says: “It’s still an amazing thing to see the building’s profile every morning. Recent renovations have revealed a lot of original details – it was great to see them uncover the mosaic floors.” Tourists may crowd adjacent Madison Square but Joseph says it’s all just part of working in one of the world’s “universally recognizable” landmarks.

“The building is great, the neighborhood is great,” Joseph says.  “In ten years I think they’ll both be even better.”

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