NEW YORK ROLLENE SAAL, vice-president and editor-in-chief of Bantam Books, was spending a quiet weekend in the Berkshires were she received an excited telephone call from Marc Jaffe, president and publisher.
"How do you feel about sports?"
"You mean the hockey game? My friends here don't have a television set."
"We won the gold medal!"
"Terrific! Are we doing a book?" asked Rolene.
It was, as we shall see, no idle question. Pulling together an "instant book" based on a major news event -- the Warren Commission Report, the first men landing on the moon -- has become over the years a Bantam specialty, but in the case of their 68th "Extra," the case of Miracle on Ice, Bantam has outstripped itself. The latest Guinness Book of World Records lists as "fastest publishing" The Pope's Journey to the United States (1965), completed in 66 1/2 hours. Miracle on Ice, from start to finish, was completed in 46 1/2 hours. The scenario went something like this:
The first Monday morning after the Olympic win found Saal and other Bantam people in the offices of Times Books, which was acting as liaison between Bantam and the sportswriters of The New York Times. Although Dave Anderson, Gerald Eskenazi and other Timesmen were still in Lake Placid, Bantam was able to discuss with Times Books the approximate content they intended the book to have -- an "Olympic loveletter" of an introduction by Anderson, a profile of the "Iceman on a Hot Spot, Coach Herb Brooks" by Jim Naughton, profiles of the players, summaries of the game with Russia in which the Americans came from behind, and of course, the historic gold medal game with Finland. Bantam also orangized its own staff to work on the project.
Also on Monday, Bantam's art director, Len Leone, began to assemble the photographs to fill 64 pages. By Tuesday morning they were stacked up outside the art department, underfoot. By the time Saal came back to the office Tuesday night after dinner with an author, all the photographs had been selected, the captions already written and edited. The Times people had promised their copy no later than Wednesday evening, later amending that to Wednesday afternoon. Yet, by a prodigious effort, their copy was in Bantam's offices by Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. It was in the form of long newspaper galley sheets that would have to be reset to become a book.Everybody grabbed the galleys and began to read -- the editing department for sense, style and fluency, the copy editing department for errors. By noon Wednesday, the copy was on the plane to Nashville and the typesetter. The following morning, the finished type was on the plane from Nashville to Chicago, where it was printed and bound. Finished copies came out of the binderies early Friday, ready to ship. Trucks carried the books for distribution throughout the midwest, while planes airlifted cartons of them to major cities like Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Boston. By Friday evening, Miracle on ice was on sale at airports, and, on Monday morning, only one week after the project began, Bantam editors coming through Grand Central Station after a weekend in the Berkshires, could find stacks of them in every book store and newstand. So the next time you see an "instant book" related to a news event on the stands only days after the happening, don't think for a minute that the publisher has left a saucer of cream out for the brownies.