Tuesday, June 18, 2024 Jun 18, 2024
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Censorship or Business Sense? Taylor Drops a Controversial Book


On a trip last summer to New York, Dallas Times Herald columnist Jim Schutze laughed when a friend told him his forthcoming book on Dallas race relations would never be published locally. “I told him that was passe Yankee thinking, that Dallas was mature enough to stand self-criticism.” says Schutze. “I guess 1 was wrong.”

It does look that way. In late September. Taylor Publishing Co. decided to stop the presses on The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City. Now the book has acquired another, unofficial subtitle: “The Book That Was Banned in Dallas”

Nineteen months ago. Schutze signed a contract to write a book examining race relations in Dallas. How did the city escape the riots and ugly demonstrations that scarred Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.? And why does the city remain essentially segregated, with weak black leadership, despite the presence of two blacks on the city council and a black county commissioner? After eight months of research and writing, Schutze delivered the manuscript to Robert Frese, his editor at Taylor.

During the editing of The Accommodation. Frese had heard ominous rumblings within Taylor because the book pulled no punches. The stalwarts of Leadership Dallas during the Fifties and Sixties-John Stemmons, W.A. Criswell. The Dallas Morning News, R.L. Thornton, Erik Jonsson-are depicted as part of the problem, not the solution, as Dallas wrestled with desegregation and civil rights. Only retail king Stanley Marcus emerges as a beacon of enlightenment in a bigoted power structure.

Whispered complaints be- came a whirlwind of rumors after Kit Bauman, editor of The Dallas Downtown News and a D contributing editor, wrote in the paper’s September 15-21 edition that Schutze’s book was a “scorcher” bound to enrage official Dallas. Soon after that, Taylor announced it was dropping The Accommodation from its fall list, a decision that raised a flurry of questions: did Bill Taylor, former co-owner and now board member, pound the table and call Schutze a “communist”? Did Alex Bickley, unofficial personal secretary to Dallas icons, call Taylor execs to warn that officialdom was not amused and the company’s $90 million annual sales (mostly in high-school yearbooks) could suffer accordingly?

Arnie Hanson, Taylor publisher, is blunt about the decision. “I’m here to ensure this company makes money. We had Jim’s book listed in the spring catalogue but postponed it because of so few orders. This fall we still had only 452 orders. I have to print a minimum of 4,000 to 5,000 copies [at a cost of more than $20,000] to do any good. I still cannot justify publishing Jim’s book.” Hanson says Taylor Publishing canceled Tieman Dippel’s book. The New Legacy, about Texas politics, for the same reason. But Frese has a different view of why The Accommodation was dropped. In an interview with The New York Times, he said, “Jim is saying things about Dallas that aren’t all that nicey-nicey. It’s so image-conscious here, you can’t say anything negative.” Vicki Eisenberg, Schutze’s agent, concurs: “They never gave us poor sales as a reason why Jim’s book was killed. Frese told us it was because of the heat they were getting.”

Schutze is saddened by the results. “This was to be a Dallas project: conceived, written, and published here. It would show we had grown up,” he says. “Now perhaps it will be a New York or Chicago deal. and once again Dallas looks bad. And I think this is not the real Dallas. We have matured. The old oligarchy days have passed and we have new, cosmopolitan leaders, the John Taturns and Lee Simpsons. I think the trade book people didn’t alert the bosses as to what the book was about. You have to tell them that it’s the nature of this stuff that someone might actually read the book.”

For the record, Hanson categorically denies that Bickley or anyone from “downtown” called to pressure him or president Randy Marston; he says that Taylor was present at the board meeting but didn’t pound the table or question Schutze’s patriotism.

To judge The Accommodation for themselves, readers will have to wait until another, out-of-town publisher sends the bad news back to Dallas. Watch for the bright red banner.