The Millers of Academy Chicago

If you are a mystery fan you should know about Academy Chicago, Publishers. A small publishing house with a reputation for quality, Academy Chicago reprints mysteries under the Academy Mystery logo, which features a Halloween cat with arched back. Academy Chicago has two house detectives. Sergeant Beef, a down-to-earth, lower middle-class policeman, and Carolus Deene, a schoolmaster known as the Gentleman Detective, are the creations of Leo Bruce, a pseudonym of the late English author, Rupert Croft-Cooke. Academy Chicago bought the rights to the eight Sergeant Beef mysteries and the 21 Carolus Deene mysteries, originally published in England, from Croft-Cooke's heir in India. So far Academy Chicago has published seven Beef and four Deene mysteries.

The Academy Mystery backlist also includes: four Inspector Ghote mysteries by H. R. F. Keating, twice winner of the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for best mystery; Celia Fremlin's ``The Hours Before Dawn,'' winner of a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best novel; and ``The Naked Runner'' by Francis Clifford, winner of an Edgar and two CWA Silver Daggers. This spring Academy Chicago will publish two more Inspector Ghote novels, a Carolus Deene mystery, and novels by both Clifford and Fremlin.

Unlike the other Academy Mysteries, the Beef and Deene novels are published in both hard-cover and paperback. The paperbacks are typical of the high quality Academy Chicago strives to attain. Regardless of size, Academy Chicago paperbacks are of trade quality, with sturdy, long-wearing bindings, clear print, and adequate margins.

Academy Chicago has also published four original first novels in hard-cover. Coincidentally, all four have been either mysteries or thrillers. The latest, ``The Makeover,'' by Marcia Biederman (published last fall), is a humorous and suspenseful story about a secretary who discovers that her employer, an American munitions company, is illegally exporting arms to South Africa.

Academy Chicago's first book, ``A Guide to Non-Sexist Children's Books,'' by Judith Adell and Hilary Dole Klein, published in 1976, was a success thanks to an article in Parade magazine and actor Alan Alda's short introduction.

Academy Chicago currently publishes approximately 30 to 40 books a year, plus an equal number of books imported from two English publishers, Granada, and Boydell and Brewer.

The first Academy Mystery was published in 1980. One-third of the new titles on Academy Chicago's Fall 1984 list are mysteries, which vice-president Jordan Miller says is becoming a respected genre. Besides mysteries, Academy Chicago publishes fiction, history, and biographies, with an emphasis on neglected classics. Anita Miller, president of Academy Chicago (and Jordan's wife), describes their list as idiosyncratic. It is a personal list; the Millers choose books that they like or that are recommended to them.

When I spoke with the Millers in New York recently, I discovered that neither of them had any publishing experience before they founded Academy Chicago in 1975. They say that they knew their chances of succeeding were slim and modestly claim that they have succeeded through a series of accidents.

Jordan Miller handles promotion, subsidiary rights, and what Anita calls ``anything that involves telephone work.'' Anita, who earned a PhD in English literature from Northwestern University, is editor-in-chief, reading every manuscript submitted.

With only 10 employees, the Millers are involved in and have control over every aspect of the books they publish. As a result they can demand and achieve a quality product. Although they want Academy Chicago to continue growing, they don't want the company to get too big. If that happened, Academy Chicago, Publishers, wouldn't be the same.

For a complete list of Academy Chicago mysteries, write Academy Chicago, Publishers, 425 N. Michigam Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

After 10 years at CBS Inc., Jane Stewart Spitzer now reviews popular fiction for the Monitor.

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