PORT TOWNSEND — Adam Parfrey, a Port Townsend publisher known for giving a voice to fringe views and exposing people to ideas others were not willing to publish, has died.
The 61-year-old founder of Feral House Publishing, unable to recover from a stroke April 20, passed Thursday while in medical care in Seattle.
Parfrey is best known for “putting light into what some people would consider dark corners and expanding people’s sheltered view of the world,” said his sister, Jessica Parfrey. “He was exposing people to things that they had no idea existed.”
She said what her brother published wasn’t necessarily pretty, but covered things that were real.
Adam Parfrey co-founded Amok Press with Kenneth Sweezey in New York in 1987 and later founded Feral House in 1989.
He has published more than 100 books under the label, including “You Can’t Win” by Jack Black, “The White Nationalist Skinhead Movement: UK & U.S.A. 1979-1993” by Robert Forbes and Eddie Stampton and “Technological Slavery” by the now-imprisoned Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.
Most recently Adam Parfrey was enjoying the raves and reviews of his newest book release, “The Despair of Monkeys and Other Trifles,” the English-language memoir of French singer Francois Hardy and was working on his memoir, “A Feral Man in a Feral Land.”
He co-founded the independent publishing company Process Media with Jodi Wille of Dilettante Press in 2005, which has published more than 20 books focused on culture, homesteading and practical skills.
According to Feral House, he was working on a number of projects before he passed. Feral House will shepherd them into print in the coming 12 to 18 months.
Jessica said her brother moved to Port Townsend about 10 years ago.
“People would see him walking downtown Port Townsend with his dog Loki, a woolly Husky that was amazing,” she said. She said he would often help with the farmers market as well.
Since his death, artists and fans have been reaching out to Feral House and to family, Jessica said.
“A lot of artists have been reaching out and have been saying what a profound effect he has had on their lives,” she said. “It’s been pretty moving to see.”
Writers for LA Weekly, Vice, Deadline and others reflected on his death and the legacy of his work.
He had a knack for knowing what was going to be a hit, Jessica said.
In 1992 Feral House published “Nightmare of Ecstasy: The Life and Art of Edward D. Wood, Jr.,” which later became Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” two years later.
“He had this idea something was going to get big and then a few years later it did,” Jessica said. “He always knew when something was going to happen. Adam was always early.”
He wasn’t always looking for books that would be top sellers though, she said. In many cases he was more interested in providing a voice than he was in turning a profit.
“Sometimes he would publish books he figured wouldn’t sell well,” she said. “He certainly accepted projects he knew that if he broke even on that book he would be lucky — but he still wanted to do it.”
Jessica said her brother’s love of introducing people to new things started at a young age. She remembered when she was a young girl in the mid ’70s and he introduced her to punk rock.
“He wanted to share his music with us, but a kid version,” she said. That included songs such as “Rock Lobster” by the B-52’s, and artists such as Blondie and the Talking Heads.
“That was eye-opening,” she said. “He expanded our horizons of what was possible. Our brains couldn’t conceive that that kind of music was out there.”
This story was first published in the Peninsula Daily News. Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at email@example.com.
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