THE SUMMIT conference seems to have given a spur to sales of A Time for Peace by Mikhail Gorbachev, published last month by the fledgling New York firm of Richardson & Steirman. "The orders are pouring in," says editor-in-chief Stewart Richardson. "We did a first printing of 25,000, which sold out right away, and there is a backlog of 13,000 orders. So we've gone for a second printing of another 25,000 and I suspect we'll have to do a third."
To a certain extent, the book's success is due to the wonders of modern computerized typesetting. Richardson only received the manuscript from the Russians in August, but he was able to set type almost immediately and get the book on press for its Nov. 8 publishing date. "The Russians were skeptical that we could do it, but I thought it was important to get it out before the summit," Richardson says.
Richardson has been on the trail of a book by a Soviet leader for some time. At first, he wrote to Yuri Andropov and then to Konstantin Chernenko, and finally to Gorbachev, who was then deputy secretary of the Communist Party and widely tipped to be the next general secretary. At first, Gorbachev said no, but changed his mind in August, so Richardson went to Moscow to sign the deal and pick up the manuscript. The Russians provided the English translation, but also made available the Russian original for checking. The book is basically an edited set of Gorbachev speeches and official interviews on foreign policy, accompanied by a short biography and an introduction.
Richardson and Steirman started their new company in January and published two books in the spring and eight this fall. Both men are well-known figures in the publishing world. Richardson is a former editor-in-chief of Doubleday and his partner, Hy Steirman, founded Paperback Library and built it up to the fourth leading company in the paperback field before selling it to Warner Communications where it became Warner Books.
Among the other titles on the Richardson & Steirman list are Payment Refused, an attack on the insurance industry by William N. Shernoff, a California lawyer and consumer advocate, and Conglomerate, a novel about big business by Rita Jenrette. Now if Richardson can arrange to get Rita over to Moscow for a few months, he might have a real best seller on his hands. The First Atom Bomb
SPEAKING OF MOSCOW, there's news about Martin Cruz Smith, whose last book, the enormously successful Gorky Park, was set mainly in the Soviet capital. Smith has finished his new novel and delivered it to Random House, which will publish it in May. The title is Stallion Gate and it concerns the building of the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico, in 1944. In the opening scene, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Gen. Leslie Groves drive out in a snowstorm to choose the place where the first bomb will be exploded, an area where wild horses gather, called Stallion Gate by the local Indians.
The protagonist of the novel is an Indian combat veteran who is a native of the area and who is brought back to New Mexico as part of the support team on the project. Smith, whose mother is of Pueblo Indian extraction, grew up around Los Alamos himself several years after the explosion of the bomb.
As might be expected, the prospect of another hit on the scale of Gorky Park has the book business astir worldwide. Stallion Gate has already been chosen as an alternate selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and contracts have been signed with such foreign firms as Harvill-Collins in London, Mondadori in Italy and Scherz in Germany. Smith's agent, Knox Burger, tells me he is currently in heavy negotiations with a leading producer for the movie rights. Video-Bound
RANDOM HOUSE is plunging full speed ahead into the home-video market. It has just signed a deal with the Children's Television Workshop for use of the 17 years of Sesame Street programs. It will issue six 30-to-40 minute video cassettes early next year containing chosen segments from the show. The cassettes will retail for $19.95. It's nice to know that the Cookie Monster will be preserved for posterity.
The Sesame Street deal comes hot on the heels of a similar announcement -- Random House's development of a series called The Looking Glass Library, also aimed at the kids' market. This involves the creation of half-hour shows based on children's classics and narrated by big names from the world of entertainment. The first in the series, Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit, with narration by Meryl Streep, has already been released in two version -- as an audio cassette and as a video. The video portion consists of 400 color drawings linked by dissolve animation. Three more cassettes have been announced -- The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen, narrated by Cher; The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Andersen, narrated by Jeremy Irons, and Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, narrated by Jack Nicholson. The last three are due in spring of next year. Each video cassette will cost $24.95.
The whole thing sounds charming, but it also causes some unease. Wouldn't it be sad if a narration by even so talented a person as Streep were to replace a parent's reading to a child at bedtime? How to Sell Books
WHEN SOTHEBY'S, the New York auction house, announced a sale of several hundred paintings of lilies by the French artist Pierre Redout,e, the folks at The Overlook Press sat bolt upright in their Eames chairs. After all, in their warehouse, they had a binful of copies of Lilies and Related Flowers by the very same Redout,e, published in 1982 and containing 108 color plates and retailing for a mere $60. What an opportunity! Sotheby's was duly approached but the powers-that-be at the auction house only tittered decorously behind their embroidered handkerchiefs. With millions in the offing from their auction, they were not interested in making a fast few bills flogging books.
Still, the crowd at Overlook was thinking of all those losing bidders who would snap up their volumes as consolation prizes. So on the morning of the auction, they parked a van in front of Sotheby's, promotional material at the ready, all primed to take orders for their books. Unfortunately, the auction was over in five minutes as a syndicate of lily lovers coughed up $5 million to buy the whole collection. The Overlook Press gang was left with no sales at Sotheby's -- but a rather good item for book gossip columnists. In the Margin
TOM CLANCY, author of The Hunt for Red October, which is navigating along nicely on the paperback best- seller list, has just signed a three-book contract with Putnam. The first of the three books, a novel called Red Storm Rising -- about the coming of World War III -- is due at Putnam on Feb. 1 and Clancy is working away furiously. The stress of his labors is slightly soothed by the fact that the three- book contract is worth 3 million clams. . . Leave it to those Texans to show how you can really commemorate an anniversary. In honor of the 150th birthday of Texas' independence from Mexico, to be celebrated March 2, 1986 (down there they call it the Texas Sesquicentennial), the University of Texas Press in Austin will issue a two-volume edition of James Michener's novel Texas with 250 illustrations by Texas artist Charles Shaw. The volumes will be buckram- bound and slipcased and will cost $125. According to John H. Kyle, director of the University of Texas Press -- never a chap to mince words -- the book will be the most prized memento of the Texas Sesquicentennial. And that's not all. It is, Kyle avers, "a significant episode in the history of fine bookmaking and publishing in Texas." . . . Oops! Book Report regrets misspelling the names of Mary H. Claycomb and the Claycomb Press of Chevy Chase in its December 1 column.