High Risk Books was founded in New York City in 1993 by Ira Silverberg and Amy Scholder as an imprint of Serpent's Tail Press in London . Dedicated to publishing challenging, innovative, and progressive literature, High Risk Books transcended the traditional boundaries of publishing to provoke and inspire a new generation of writers and readers. Ira Silverberg told The New York Times in a March 13, 1994 interview that he and his co-editor Amy Scholder wanted to "catch an area of the market that's being overlooked by mainstream houses. . . . We're working with a lot of gay men, lesbians, and African Americans, because the voices of under served communities tend to shed more light on societal conditions than the voices of the people who have the franchise. That's not to say we won't publish straight white men." While connected by a certain subversive impulse, authors as diverse as William S. Burroughs, Kathy Acker, Tim Dlugos, Diamanda Galas, Robert Gluck, Gary Indiana, June Jordan, Cookie Mueller, Lynne Tillman, Pagan Kennedy, John Giorno, Sapphire and many others are published by High Risk.
As a small press High Risk played a crucial role in providing a space for writers, many just beginning their careers, who would otherwise have found it difficult to get published in mainstream houses. Anny Patty, editor-at-large at Crown Publishing, complimented Ira Silverberg for "publishing a kind of book that's very hard for corporate publishers to get past committees, which tend to homogenize things. He's able to publish non-homogenized writing and to sort out those who are posing from those who really have something to say." Ira's larger agenda for High Risk Books can be summed up in his statement to The New York Times: "I hope we'll be seen as the diamond in the coal bin that publishing is right now. I want to prove to the world that literary publishing has a future".
In January, 1997, the High Risk office in New York closed. Serpent's Tail Press continues to publish from the United Kingdom .
From the guide to the Serpent's Tail/High Risk Archive, ca. 1990-1997, (© 2012 Fales Library and Special Collections)