Stewart Richardson, a former top editor at Doubleday and other publishing houses, died yesterday at a hospital in Manhattan. He was 78 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was a lung infection, said his wife, Sally Richardson.

Mr. Richardson was the executive editor and later editor in chief of Doubleday during the 1960's and 70's and later led several other publishing ventures, including Richardson & Snyder, Richardson & Steirman and Birch Lane.

Among the authors he edited were Wallace Stegner, whose 1971 novel "Angle of Repose" won the Pulitzer Prize; Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose memoir, "Times to Remember," was published in 1974; Robert F. Kennedy; Edward M. Kennedy; Patricia Kennedy Lawford; John Updike; James Dickey; and William Goldman.

For her book, published by Doubleday, Mrs. Kennedy was paid $1.525 million in 1971, then one of the largest sums ever offered for a memoir. The income from "Times to Remember" was donated to the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for the Mentally Retarded.

He also edited "Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West" by William H. Goetzmann, a professor at Yale; it won the Pulitzer for history in 1967.

Mr. Richardson had a longstanding interest in Russia, and in 1970 he negotiated an agreement for Doubleday with the Soviet Union in which the Russians for the first time recognized the copyright of an American publisher.

In 1985, Mr. Richardson added to his list of authors Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who was then the leader of the Soviet Union. His book, "A Time for Peace," published by Richardson & Steirman, was a collection of speeches and statements with some new material by Mr. Gorbachev.

Richardson & Snyder, a short-lived house created as a joint venture between Mr. Richardson and Julian M. Snyder, became embroiled in a controversy over one of its books, "God's Broker," published in 1984, which seemed to be the life of Pope John Paul II as told in his own words and those of his friends.

The author, Antoni Gronowicz, claimed to have conducted 200 hours of interviews with the pope, though the Vatican denied that the pope had spoken to the author at all. The book was withdrawn shortly after its publication and the company was dissolved.

In addition to his wife, who is the president and publisher of St. Martin's Press, he is survived by a son, Scott, of Manassas, Va.; a daughter, Wendy Chevillard, of Paris; a brother, Allen, of Floyd, Va.; and four grandchildren.

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Mikhail Gorbachev, Author

 

Most first-time writers with fledgling publishers have a hard time getting noticed. Not this one. Last week, when the small, independent New York publishing house of Richardson & Steirman brought out A Time for Peace by Mikhail Gorbachev, the event was celebrated with a well-stocked press reception at the Soviet embassy in Washington.

The 312-page tome is primarily a collection of speeches, letters and interviews granted since Gorbachev assumed Soviet leadership last March. New material includes a brief introduction by the author, a reverent biography supplied by the Kremlin and eight pages of color photographs. The most unusual are informal shots of the Gorbachev family taken during a vacation, an almost revolutionary development, considering that Westerners had to wait until Soviet Leader Yuri Andropov's funeral to be sure that he even had a wife.

Gorbachev's introduction typifies the man. It is both direct ("We have major achievements as well as quite a few unresolved problems") and rather bombastic ("Sometimes even a single day may be equivalent to a whole epoch in terms of the scope of decisions that have to be made"). The Soviet leader attempts to woo Americans with assurances of his reasonableness: "We are committed firmly to returning Soviet-American relations back onto a normal track, back to the road of mutual understanding and cooperation."

Gorbachev apparently fiddled with the book until the last minute, adding an assurance that the Soviet Union would never start a war. But in the reprinted speeches, the General Secretary often lapses into eye-glazing Marxist clichés: "The time we live in will go down in history as a time of intense class struggle in the world arena," Gorbachev stated on Lenin's birthday in 1983. "Imperialist reaction can hide behind many masks, but it cannot hide the fact that its foreign course is dictated, even today, by narrowly selfish class interests."

The book's publishers, Stewart Richardson, a former editor in chief of Doubleday Publishing, and Hy Steirman, the former owner of what was once the Paperback Library, incorporated in January. Richardson, who had previously obtained a book on foreign policy by Leonid Brezhnev, originally suggested similar works from Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, both of whom died before they could complete their oeuvres. Negotiations for the Gorbachev book were completed in Moscow in September and were conducted without the knowledge of American authorities. The book was translated from Russian in Moscow, but will not be published there. The first printing of 25,000 copies of the $15.95 book was sold out in a day, and another 25,000 have been ordered, although A Time for Peace is not likely to displace Elvis and Me from the top of the U.S. best-seller lists. Gorbachev, who will receive the standard 15% royalty fee, is giving his income from the book to Soviet Life, an English-language magazine that Moscow publishes in the U.S.