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The publisher as protagonist

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"Morgan is from the South," says longtime friend Richard Howorth, who owns the independent bookstore Square Books in Oxford, Miss., where he is also the mayor. "But it's not like he grew up in overalls or plowing behind a mule. He's a sophisticated person who comes from a sophisticated family."

Entrekin attended Montgomery Belle Academy, a conservative prep school that inspired an alumnus, N.H. Kleinbaum, to write "Dead Poets Society."

Entrekin's late father loved the opera and turned both his wife and son into enthusiasts. His mother still holds season tickets to New York's Metropolitan Opera and travels frequently to attend performances with her son.

Coming of age in the South during the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, Entrekin says, exposed him to authors who challenged authority: Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller. At Stanford, where he studied English, he read experimental, contemporary writers like Don DeLillo, Jean Genet, and Antonin Artaud.

On a lark, after graduating from Stanford in 1977, Entrekin enrolled in the Radcliffe Publishing Course, a training ground for those aspiring to literary careers. That same year, he went to work for the legendary independent editor Seymour Lawrence, at Delacorte Press.

Entrekin was an editor within six months. By 1978, he had successfully edited Vonnegut's "Jailbird," which became a critically acclaimed bestseller. "Jailbird" gave Entrekin the confidence to trust his instincts. "If I could work with him," he figured. "I could work with anybody."

In 1982, Entrekin joined Simon & Schuster, where he famously championed - and finally acquired - Easton Ellis's controversial depiction of 1980s excess, "Less Than Zero."

At 28, Entrekin quit to go into business for himself. With his father's generous backing, he struck a deal with Mort Zuckerman at Atlantic Monthly Press that would allow him to break into publishing independently under his own imprint, Morgan Entrekin Books.

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