Alan J. Hruska, founder of Soho Press, dies at 88


Alan J. Hruska, a corporate litigator who had a high-profile second career as the founder of the independent publishing house Soho Press, which invests in serious fiction by little-known authors; as a novelist; and as a writer, director and producer of plays and films, died March 29 at his Manhattan home. He was 88 years old.

The cause was lymphoma, said her daughter, Soho Press editor Bronwen Hruska.

Even before Mr. Hruska retired from his job at Cravath Swaine & Moore in New York in 2001 after four decades there, he published his first novel, in 1985. The following year, with his wife, Laura Chapman Hruska, and Juris Jurjevics, former editor of Dial Press, he founded Soho Press.

Soho Press has made its reputation by welcoming unsolicited manuscripts from little-known writers. Its ambitions, Mr Jurjevics said, were “not to have a certain percentage of growth per year and not to be bought by anybody”.

Manhattan-based Soho Press specializes in literary fiction and memoir with a book list including books by Jake Arnott, Edwidge Danticat, John L’Heureux, Delores Phillips, Sue Townsend and Jacqueline Winspear. The company also has a young adult imprint Soho Teen and a Soho Crime imprint which publishes mysteries set in exotic locations by, among others, Cara Black, Colin Cotterill, Peter Lovesey and Stuart Neville.

Mr. Hruska (pronounced RUH-ska) has often said that there is less of a professional disconnect between the lawyer and the literature than there appears to be. Both, done successfully, he said, are about storytelling, whether it’s arguing a case in a legal case or writing a novel, screenplay or screenplay.

“I was a trial lawyer, and while I expect my actors to remember their lines better than my witnesses, there’s less of a disparity between the two professions than you might think,” he said. he said in an interview. with a blogger in 2017.

“A trial and a play are both productions,” he added. “Putting everyone together is telling a story. The same goes for writing a brief or presenting a case before a panel of judges. If you don’t tell a story, you’ll most likely put them to sleep.

Alan Jay Hruska was born July 9, 1933 in the Bronx and grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens. Her father, Harry Hruska, worked in textiles. His mother, Julia (Schwarz) Hruska, was a housewife.

While he was undecided on a profession, Alan had a penchant for the cinema which imposed itself at the age of 8 years. As a young man, he rode the subway to Manhattan to watch double feature films in first-run theaters.

After graduating from Lawrence High School on Long Island, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale in 1955 and was persuaded to apply to Yale Law School by a college professor impressed with his skills in logic and rationalization. He, in turn, found the law to be an ideal vehicle for his writing and reasoning.

He graduated from law school in 1958, the same year he married Laura Mae Chapman, one of three wives in their law class.

She died in 2010. Besides their daughter, he is survived by two sons, Andrew and Matthew; his wife, Julie Iovine, a former New York Times and Wall Street Journal reporter, whom he married in 2013; and six grandchildren.

Mr. Hruska drew on his litigation experiences in major cases to write a number of his novels, including ‘Wrong Man Running’ (2011); “Forgive the Crows” (2015); “It Happened at Two in the Morning” (2017), which according to the Wall Street Journal showed the author “at his best in thriller writing”; and “The Inglorious Arts” (2019).

He also wrote and directed “Nola,” a romantic comedy starring Emmy Rossum that opened at the 2003 Tribeca Film Festival.

His other films include “The Warrior Class,” a comedy about a rookie lawyer that premiered at the 2005 Hamptons International Film Festival; and “The Man on Her Mind”, an existential comedy based on his play of the same name, which premiered at London’s Charing Cross Theater in 2012.

He made his theatrical debut directing an Off Broadway revival of “Waiting for Godot” in 2005. Ten years later, when one of his surreal plays about love, marriage and an impending hurricane opened, critic Alexis Soloski wrote in The Times in 2015, “If an existentialist philosopher were to ever attempt a light-hearted romantic comedy, it might look a bit like ‘Laugh It Up, Stare It Down’, Alan Hruska’s weirdly absurd play in the Cherry Lane Theater.”

Mr. Hruska oversaw a wide range of civil litigation at Cravath over the 44 years prior to his retirement in 2001. He was appointed senior counsel in 2002. He also served as secretary of the New York Bar Association.

Ask by The American lawyer in 2015, if he ever felt that the law was not his true vocation, he replied: “Not at all. I had a good experience. I’ve done about 400 cases, won 200 and settled 200. I’m especially proud of settlements because they can put people in a much better position than winning a case.


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