One minute read. Written by Samya Singh – a grade 8 student
Ajay Singh Mehta, or Sonny Mehta (as he was popularly known), was an acclaimed Indian editor. He was the editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Alfred A. Knopf is an American publishing house where Sonny Mehta served as the third, and most recent, editor-in-chief. The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group is also, like Alfred A. Knopf, an American publishing company. Both these organizations publish both fiction and non-fiction books. Being an Indian and rising to this position was quite a feat (not many Indians have made it as editor-in-chiefs of international publishing houses)
The only child of Amrik Singh Mehta and Satinder Duggal Singh, Sonny Mehta, was born on November 9th, 1942, in New Delhi. In his childhood, he lived in many places, all around the world like Geneva, Nepal, New Delhi, Prague and New York City. He went to the Lawrence School, Sanawar, Himachal Pradesh, India and Sevenoaks School in Kent, United Kingdom. It was there that he won an open scholarship to St Catharine’s College in Cambridge. In 1965, he married Gita (Patnaik) Mehta, who is an author and filmmaker.
Sonny Mehta began his career in publishing in 1965 in London at Rupert Hart-Davis, after which he joined Granada Publishing in 1966 to become the co-founder of a new publishing house called Paladin. Here he brought American writers to the UK public with their books. In 1972, he moved to Pan Books where he published books by best-selling authors. The big break came when Sonny moved from London to New York in 1978 to head Alfred A. Knopf as president and editor-in-chief. There, he published six novels that went on to win Nobel Prizes in Literature, Pulitzer Prizes, Booker Prizes and National Book Awards. He also published work by world leaders such as George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and Pope John Paul II.
Some other famous authors he published include Toni Morrison, John Updike, Anne Rice, John le Carré, P.D. James and Gabriel García Márquez. He also published Michael Crichton’s “Jurassic Park” and Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo trilogy.
Sonny Mehta was constantly recognised for his work. He was in the Hall of Fame in Vanity Fair’s Best-Dressed Men in the World list. He was named 2015 Person of the Year by Publishers Weekly. In 2018 the Center for Fiction awarded him the Maxwell E. Perkins Award, honouring the lifetime work of an editor, publisher or agent who over the course of his or her career has discovered, nurtured and championed writers of fiction in the United States.
On 30th December 2019 at age 77, Sonny Mehta passed away due to pneumonia in New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. His contribution to literature will always be remembered.