New Kid in Bethesda

THERE'S A NEW publishing house on the Washington -- and national -- scene. It is called Adler & Adler, and it has been purring away in Bethesda since the beginning of the year, with its first books to appear in January. And a classy little list it is. The first title will be Is My Armor Straight?, by Richard Berendzen, the astronomer who is president of American University. It chronicles a year in the life of a university prexy and the title refers to a suit of armor Berendzen once wore to a tense faculty meeting. Those A.U. profs are a rough bunch.

The biggest title of Adler & Adler's first list, though, is America Can Win: The Case for Military Reform, by Sen. Gary Hart (D- Colo.) with William S. Lind. According to the catalogue, the book "is an authoritative, nonpartisan analysis of what is wrong with our armed forces, which have not won a major victory with conventional arms since the Inchon landing during the Korean War." Catalogues always have such an authoritative, nonpartisan way of putting things.

Among the other books on the initial list at A&A are In the Eye of the Storm, a memoir by Kurt Waldheim, former secretary-general of the United Nations and The Spirit of Allah, a biography of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Behind the enterprises are James and Esthy Adler. The Adlers once owned Congressional Information Services, which began in the early 1970s by issuing congressional committee reports on microfiche for libraries and evolved into a series of related businesses with 300 employes. The Adlers later sold C.I.S. to the Dutch publishing giant Elsevier for a reported $24 million.

Editor-in-chief of Adler & Adler is George Walsh, formerly the top editor at Macmillan's general books division and before that editor of Ballantine Books, the mass-market arm of Random House. According to Walsh, the firm will publish about two dozen books a year. The main emphasis will be on current events, but the list will also include three to six novels annually. The titles at A&A will be distributed by Harper & Row. Ramona

IT SEEMS that publishers are constantly looking to expand their offerings beyond mere books. What may be the first "publishing doll" is about to make an appearance. The doll in question is a 16-inch-high replica of Ramona Quimby, heroine of eight novels by Beverly Cleary, the latest of which Ramona Forever was published by Morrow in 1984. The doll will be clad in classic Ramona garb -- red shirt, blue pants, and red and white sneakers. The suggested retail price, as the phrase goes, is $15.95 and the doll will be in bookstores around Thanksgiving . . . Young Reagan

ANNE EDWARDS, author of the current A Remarkable Woman, a biography of Katharine Hepburn -- and previous biographies of Queen Mary, Judy Garland and Vivien Leigh -- is researching a new book on the early years of Ronald Reagan. It will take the president up to the point where he runs for governor of California. She has already done considerable research in Reagan's birthplace of Dixon, Illinois, and in other midwest towns and cities where he lived. I spoke to her on the phone in Los Angeles where she was killing two birds with one stone, promoting the Hepburn book and investigating Reagan's Hollywood years.

"I knew Reagan when he was president of the Screen Writers Guild because at the same time I was president of the Authors Guild," Edwards said. "So I really have a lot of expertise on Hollywood during that time. I've been working on the research for 10 months and have basically finished the midwest part, but I will probably go back to Dixon early next year to talk to one or two more people. I like to dawdle when I'm doing research."

What, I asked naively, was the theme of the book?

"It's the story of how someone very unlikely rose to be president and the embodiment of the American dream." Sounds like it may be cold comfort for the Democrats. The title will be Early Reagan: The Story of a Folk Hero, and the book may end up as two volumes. Watching Julia Cook

THERE'S NOTHING as nice as a Milestone in Publishing History. Such a one is The Way to Cook, a series of six one-hour video cassettes from that past mistress of video instruction, Julia Child. The tapes cost $29.95 each and bear the subtitles "Poultry," "Soups, Salads & Bread," "Meat," "Fish & Eggs," "Vegetables," and "First Courses & Desserts."

According to Jane Friedman, associate publisher at Knopf and head of the project, this is the first time a publishing house has actually produced cassettes for sale in bookstores. To be more exact, Knopf is the co- producer with Julia Child Productions. For historians of the media, let's let Jane tell how it all came about.

"Several years ago, Julia, her lawyer and Russell Morash, her producer at WGBH Boston, came to see us with a pilot cassette on chicken cookery. This was really before the boom in home video began. But about two years ago, we decided to move on it and expanded the idea beyond the orginal tape. Julia now lives in Santa Barbara so we went out there, rented a space and installed a kitchen. The whole shooting took nine weeks. Judith Jones, who was Julia's editor on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was co-producer for Knopf. We made 25,000 copies of each tape or a total of 150,000 for the six. Most bookstores love the idea, but some don't want to handle cassettes. But we've been selling them successfully through cookery catalogues like Williams-Sonoma and I. Magnin."

In pursuit of journalistic duty, I hooked up my VCR and had a gander at Julia cooking poultry. The tape seemed more succinct, more carefully planned, than her former recipe-mongering on the telly. But Julia's long suit -- her unaffected enthusiasm for food and its preparation -- was there in abundance. I ran directly to my butcher, bought a cut-up chicken, and that very evening had it with cream, tarragon and mushrooms, as directed by La Child. While scoffing it down, my wife and I skipped the 6 o'clock news and instead watched Julia preparing the dish on tape, which made us feel very gluttonous indeed. In the Margin

STAN MACK'S Out-Takes is a book of comic strips from the pen of the cartoonist for The Village Voice and Adweek. Mack specializes in reproducing overheard zany conversations. The strips in the Voice cover all subjects but those in Adweek concentrate on the ad industry, which has proven a fruitful source of yucks. The strips in the new book are mainly from Adweek, with a few -- on the media -- from the Voice. Publisher is The Overlook Press . . . Erica Jong's working on a novel with an actress heroine, set in contemporary Venice but ranging back in the history of the city. Her last was Parachutes and Kisses (New American Library), published in 1984 . . . I erred in an article a few weeks ago in saying that the heavy endowment of the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City came from the Hallmark card family. There is more than one philanthropic family called Hall in Kansas City. The Herbert Hall who endowed the library with $50 million-plus owned the Hall- Baker Grain Company. Thanks to Arthur Cotts of Silver Spring and Paul Peterson of the library for setting me straight.