Sonny Mehta, head of Alfred A Knopf, dies at 77

Sonny Mehta, head of Alfred A Knopf, dies at 77

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Sonny Mehta, the urbane and astute head of Alfred A Knopf who guided one of the book world's most esteemed imprints to new heights through a blend of prize-winning literature by Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy among others and blockbusters such as "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," has died at age 77.

Mehta, the husband of author Gita Mehta, died Monday at his home in Manhattan. According to Knopf, the cause was complications from pneumonia.

"Mehta's contributions to the world of letters and publishing are without precedent," a statement from the publisher read Tuesday.

"His exacting standards – in editorial, production, design, marketing, and publicity – were a beacon to the book industry and beyond."

A successor will be named at some point in the new year.

The bearded, chain-smoking Mehta spoke carefully and chose wisely, helping Knopf thrive even as the industry faced the jarring changes of corporate consolidation, the demise of thousands of independent stores and the rise of e-books.

An accomplished publisher and editor since his mid-20s, he succeeded the revered Robert Gottlieb in 1987 as just the third Knopf editor-in-chief in its 72-year history and over the following decades fashioned his own record of critical and commercial success.

He continued to publish celebrated authors signed on by Gottlieb, including Morrison and Robert Caro, while adding newer talent such as Tommy Orange, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Karen Russell. (AP) IND IND