Sol Stein (1926-2019) was the author of 13 books. Stein enrolled at City College, but his studies there were interrupted when he enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1944. After returning home, he completed his bachelor of social science degree and earned a master’s in English and comparative literature at Columbia. In the 1950’s Stein was a fiercely anti-Communist scriptwriter for the Voice of America, Washington’s Cold War propaganda radio network, a leading defender of civil liberties, and was a member of its ideological advisory staff.
In 1952 Stein was granted a leave of absence from the Voice of America to accept back-to-back fellowships at Yaddo and The MacDowell Colony. At MacDowell, Stein completed his first play, Napoleon, under the watchful eye of Thornton Wilder, a fellow at the same time. The verse drama was produced the following year by the New Dramatists organization at the ANTA Theater in New York and was chosen by the Dramatists Alliance as “the best full length play of 1953.” In 1953 Stein edited and supervised the publication of McCarthy and the Communists by James Rorty and Moshe Decter for the Beacon Press in Boston.
In 1962 he and his wife at the time, Patricia Day, founded the publishing house Stein and Day, where he was the editor-in-chief for 27 years. Stein was also among the 10 founding members in 1957 of the Playwrights Group of the Actors Studio. He was the executive director of the American Committee for Cultural Freedom. Stein contributed articles to magazines, worked as an editor at Beacon Press, and wrote plays. He was the author of more than a dozen books, including how-to guides for novelists, and even sold software that was marketed as “guaranteed to eliminate writer’s block.”
Stein’s friendship with James Baldwin started when they were both editors of The Magpie, the literary magazine at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx. Stein edited Baldwin’s book, Notes of a Native Son, and recommended that Baldwin (54, 58, 60) go to MacDowell and would help him publish the groundbreaking book, which Baldwin worked on during his first residency.