A ground-breaking counter-history of Penguin Books - both amusing and and with a strong new Australian aspect.
How did the three Lane brothers enter publishing and build Penguin into a global powerhouse? As this new book shows, their innovation and the creative opposition among them would prove to be the company's secret weapon.
The Lane boys did their best thinking together in bathroom board-meetings, where at least one director would always be 'mother naked'. The war, though, brought tragedy for the family. John Lane's 1942 death in action during the North African landings shattered the brothers' intimate partnership.
Richard went on to share with Allen the leadership of one of the first global media businesses. The Lanes built a firm and a brand that became synonymous not only with paperbacks but also with a certain kind of publishing: switched-on, progressive, engaging. With its low-price, mass-distribution model, Penguin became a vast 'poor man's university', a proto-internet made from paper and ink.
Australia featured prominently in the lives of the Lanes. Richard came to the country as a young man, and later helped establish and lead Penguin Australia, which was so successful that it enabled its UK parent to stave off bankruptcy in the 1960s and 1970s.
Relying on unprecedented access to Lane family sources, including Richard's diaries and other papers, Penguin and the Lane Brothers sheds new light on the relationship between Allen, Richard and John, so crucial as a driver of Penguin's spirit and success. It restores the younger Lane brothers to their rightful place in the fascinating story of this unlikely publishing triumph.