Joe Kanon and Jesse Kornbluth were great friends in college. Then they moved to the same city and hadn’t done more than wave across crowded rooms in almost thirty years. But as soon as they sat down for this interview, it was as if they were having coffee after an analysis of a great novel in some college English class. The only difference was that the great novel they were dissecting was Joe’s.

Jesse Kornbluth: We all had big plans in college. Were yours to write a novel—or become a publisher?

Joseph Kanon: I had already begun to work in publishing at college as a reader for the Atlantic Monthly. At graduation, I assumed I’d be in publishing, but first I went to England and got a master’s degree in English Literature. And then I came back to New York and had a series of publishing jobs, the way one does. For a long time, I was an editor, but while I was at Dutton, I became Publisher and then President. With that change, I became less editorial and more management.

Kornbluth: You’re good with numbers? You don’t freak out when you see a budget?

Kanon: The secret of all good management is to get a good Chief Financial Officer. So I did. (