- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Les Pockell, a publishing executive and literary anthologist known for his deep and unpredictable intellect and an equally eclectic range of book projects, has died. He was 68.

Pockell, a vice president and associate publisher Grand Central Publishing for the past decade, died of cancer Monday at his home in White Plains, N.Y., the company said Tuesday.

In a long publishing career, Pockell worked at St. Martin’s Press, Doubleday and the Book-of-the-Month Club before joining Warner Books, which became Grand Central, a division of Hachette Book Group (USA).

He helped edit a diverse group of authors from mystery writer Donald Westlake to the critic Harold Bloom to the actor and children’s writer John Lithgow and compiled numerous anthologies, from “100 Essential American Poems” to “The 101 Greatest Business Principles of All Time.”

Former Warner Books CEO Larry Kirshbaum, now a literary agent, remembered Pockell as a thinking man who stood out at a relatively commercial publishing house. He was also regarded as a mentor with a great deal to teach and a willingness to let others take the credit.

Grand Central publisher and executive vice president Jamie Raab said she liked to call him “The Professor” because Pockell knew so much about so many subjects and would become visibly animated in discussion, his hands “flailing” everywhere. His learning was such that the staff at Grand Central encouraged him to try out for the TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

“He had an audition, but he didn’t make it,” Raab said. “Everyone was rooting for him because he was the smartest person we knew.”

Pockell was born on June 19, 1942, in Norwalk, Conn, and graduated from Columbia University in 1964. He is survived by his wife, Noriko, and his brother and sister.

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