Pinnacle Books began publishing in the late 1960s, mostly producing science fiction works. According to The Romance of Publishing by Alex Jackinson:
“[Pinnacle] was founded by David Zentner, publisher of Escapade and other girlie magazines. From this low estate he branched out into deco- rating newsstands with glaringly sexy paperbacks. Sex sells, on as many levels as one can imagine. Success begets growth and expansion seeded Pinnacle’s birth.”The Romance of Publishing by Alex Jackinson, Cornwall Books 1987
They were popular for their television novelizations, like Dr. Who, and soap operas like The Young and the Restless.
After the explosion of historical romance, Pinnacle went on a trajectory similar to Playboy Press. They published any historical romance they could get their hands on, regardless of quality.
Their books were raunchy and pulpy, just the very thing that sold at the time.
Pinnacle today does not publish romance novels.
Pinnacle Bestsellers: Paula Fairman and Patricia Matthews
Pinnacle’s most popular authors were Paula Fairman and Patricia Matthews, both selling millions of books.
Paula Fairman was a joint effort of science fiction & pulp author/editor Paul Fairman, who passed away in 1977, and his ghostwriter, journeyman Robert Vaughan.
Pinnacle often used male ghostwriters like Vaughan to help Matthews maintain a prolific output. Two books under Patricia Matthews’ name that Vaughan worked on were Love’s Bold Journey and Love’s Sweet Agony, both of which became New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly #1 bestsellers.
Patricia Matthews’ romances for Pinnacle were emblazoned with the moniker “America’s First Lady of Historical Romance.” Matthews used multiple pseudonyms in her career and worked with her husband, Clayton Matthews, in writing books. So there may have been many cooks in the proverbial kitchen regarding some books released by Pinnacle.
Arabesque and the First Black Romance Line
In the mid-1990s, Pinnacle released a line of romances aimed at American Blacks written by African-Americans under the Arabesque line. This was a novel and innovative idea for the publishing industry at the time.
Eventually, Pinnacle sold the Arabesque line to BET-TV, which in turn filmed several books as movies.
Authors such as Brenda Jackson got their start writing with Pinnacle.
Part of the Kensington Publishing Family
In 1985 Pinnacle Books went bankrupt. All of its assets were purchased by Windsor Publishing Corp. in 1988, which then merged with Kensington Publishing Corp., Zebra’s parent company. Some authors who wrote for Zebra, like Sylvie F. Sommerfield and Carla Simpson, wrote for Pinnacle as well.
Pinnacle Books still exists today as a Kensington imprint. However, they now only publish westerns, true crime, horror, and thrillers.