Ladies of the West

NOT every scholar would find his "greatest treasure trove of all" in the vault of the Laramie, Wyoming jail, but Baltimore's Anne M. Butler did. A professor of history at Gallaudet College in Washington, she's the author of Daughters of Joy, Sisters of Misery: Prostitutes in the American West 1865-90, just published by the University of Illinois Press. And, during the course of her 11-year research into her colorful subject, a chance visit to the courthouse in Laramie brought her into contact with over a century's worth of old files and records -- all unlooked at and unknown to archivists.

"You have to scrounge around in unlikely places," Butler laughs. It was a scorcher of a Wyoming day on that memorable morning, it seems, and the Laramie sheriff apparently thought this Easterner must have let the heat get to her when she appeared in his basement domain, in quest of any long-forgotten pieces of paper. On the verge of giving up and heading on, Butler was pleasantly startled to hear an off-duty policeman who'd been listening to the conversation volunteer that he knew about "some old stuff in the vault." Sure enough, there amidst the abandoned suitcases, battered ammunition-practice human cutouts and unpaid parking tickets was just the sort of cache every historian, amateur or professional, dreams of.

So, with her husband, Butler stayed in an interrogation room of the jail until long past midnight, furiously copying faded ledgers that documented the arrests of such police court regulars of the 1880s as Bessie Summers, Nellie Davis, Sophie Rickard, Maude Terry and Annie Ponce. This stop in Laramie, though, was just a small part of a six- week, 8,000 mile trip that helped form the core of Butler's original work. "The first week out, you're just feeling your way. After that, you know what not to ask," she explains, recalling the collective eyebrow-raising of the many western officials who weren't sure if bygone prostitution was the kind of local history for which they had, or wanted to have, records. The Board Game of The Book Business

IF the publishing industry could be put in a box with tiny markers to stand for executives (say, Howard Kaminsky or Mildred Marmur) and little cards saying things like "Return your advance" or "You make a sub-rights sale to Finland," wouldn't that be fun? However, it's certainly true that any publishing game worth its funny money would have to be sending out new rules continually, notifying players what's what and what's not. (Like how much lunch is permissible under the new tax laws.) The nice thing about Monopoly, after all, is that Marvin Gardens and Park Place are always there.

In recent weeks the venerable houses of Dial and Bobbs-Merrill have been phased out of existence, soon to join such names as Lippincott, David McKay and, more currently, Congdon & Weed, on the phantom bookshelf. San Francisco socialite Ann Getty, along with British publisher Lord Weidenfeld, is about to use her oil money to revive the slightly moribund Grove Press, best known for publishing Samuel Beckett, naughty Henry Miller titles and even naughtier but mostly anonymous Victorian erotica.

New American Library has completed its purchase of the much-bought E.P. Dutton, acquiring with the deal Dial Books for Young Readers -- an imprint cut afloat from its origins several years ago. And Simon and Schuster, new owner of Prentice-Hall, has both closed down the headquarters of Reston Publishing, a P-H division in northern Virginia, and simultaneously acquired a large bunch of the trade books put out by Van Nostrand Reinhold.

What's more, title inflation is like kudzu, creeping quickly up to get a stranglehold on the listings in Literary Market Place. The designation "vice-president and" is now the reward of every hard-working employe above the rank of mail clerk, making "associate publisher" a fresh goal to seek. This kind of linguistic fat, though, seems even to have made its mark on the way the book firms themselves are described. For example, this sentence from an S&S corporate news release: "Simon & Schuster is the cornerstone of Gulf and Western's Publishing and Information Resources Group."

One day a publishing house, the next a cornerstone. Side Bets

BEST-SELLING novelist John Jakes is trying his hand at something entirely different: musical theater. Along with composer/collaborator Mel Marvin, he's written and hoping to get produced The Haunted Palace, based on the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. Imagine tap-dancing to the tintinnabulation of those bells . . . .Moviegoers who have enjoyed George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey and who've been mesmerized by itslor footage of World War II can examine more closely the same pictures in Victory in Europe: D-Day to V-E Day (Little, Brown). (See review, p. 6.) But there's additional literary interest in that Stevens' motion picture unit, known familiarly as "the Hollywood Irregulars," was home to a couple of well-known writers, namely William Saroyan and Irwin Shaw. One of the most moving photos in the book, in fact, is of Shaw and Stevens accepting a gift of a bouquet of flowers from a newly liberated French civilian . . . ..They may be C.R.A.B.S. but they're still jovial -- the Chesapeake Regional Area Book Sellers, that is. This is a group comprised of local bookstore personnel and the publishers' reps who call on them, all banding together to work on such mutually beneficial projects as a regional bookstore directory, the possibilities for joint advertising, as well as the occasional picnic or softball game. Says founding member Bill Szabo, a co-owner of Reiter's Scientific and Professional Books, "Things were sort of on hold until after the ABA; now they're going forward."