Following legal questions raised by Kentucky newspaper magnate Barry Bingham Sr., Macmillan Publishing Co. has postponed indefinitely its publication of a book about his family, "The Binghams of Louisville."

The book -- by David Leon Chandler, a Denver-based correspondent for People magazine -- was scheduled originally for release this month. Its most explosive conclusion, Chandler said in a telephone interview, is that Robert Worth Bingham, the founder of the newspaper empire and Barry Bingham's father, "colluded with a doctor in the drugged signing of a change in the will of his wife," Mary Flagler Bingham, a collusion that "consequently and subsequently, six weeks later, ended in her death."

Bingham, the 81-year-old former chairman of the Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Co., said in an interview that he had retained a Louisville law firm "to do research" on the Chandler manuscript.

"Some of it is quite erroneous," he said, and the author's theory about his stepmother's death has been "completely repudiated" by his lawyers and a Louisville historical archive where Bingham family papers are housed.

But he said he has made no effort to suppress Chandler's book. "How could I?" Bingham asked.

Ned Chase, the Macmillan editor of Chandler's book, would say only that "We're studying the situation," and referred questions to the publishing company's legal department, which refused comment yesterday.

Chandler said he expected a decision "in two weeks" regarding Macmillan's plans for the book. The options under consideration, he said, were to proceed with publication, to proceed with publication "after revisions," or to cancel publication altogether.

"It will probably be a business decision," Chandler said, based on "whether Macmillan thinks it's worth it in terms of dollars to have a continued fight with Barry Bingham Sr."

Chandler said the first inkling of problems with the book came in late February -- as Chandler was undergoing a heart transplant in St. Louis -- when Macmillan received a letter from the Louisville archive, the Filson Club, noting its copyright interest in materials he used and citing "many examples of misuse and misquotation from our materials" concerning the Bingham family.

Chandler acknowledges that he and Barry Bingham Sr. "disagreed on the central theme" of his book, regarding Mary Flagler Bingham's will and demise. Bingham said, "My knowledge is that she died of natural causes. She had a heart condition. There was an autopsy. There was no question of foul play whatever."

Sallie Bingham, the estranged daughter of Barry Bingham Sr., last week wrote a letter to "about 30" book review editors across the country calling attention to Macmillan's postponement of the Chandler book. In the letter she accused her father of "legal intimidation" by raising the copyright question.

She wrote that if the effort "proves successful in Chandler's case, it may also prove successful in the case of two other books on my family" -- Marie Brenner's, due from Random House in November, and her own, due from Knopf next year.

Sallie Bingham also charged in the letter that a fourth book on the Bingham family, by New York Times reporter Alex Jones and Time correspondent Susan Tifft, "will not be submitted to the same process of suppression."

She went on to claim that Jones and Tifft were telling their sources that theirs was the "authorized" book on the Bingham family.

Jones said, "Sallie has tried to portray {the book} as a vanity or bought-and-paid-for kind of thing." He said he and Tifft, his wife and collaborator, have been given the cooperation of "every member" of the Bingham family, but that their book is "not authorized in any respect. They have no control in what we write and what we don't."

The Bingham family received national attention in January 1986, when -- after a complex and protracted family struggle -- it put its Louisville newspapers and other properties up for sale. Barry Bingham Sr.'s reluctant decision to cede family ownership after nearly 70 years came after agreement on a reshuffling of his children's interests could not be reached. Barry Bingham Jr., who had run the family companies since 1970, resigned in protest over the sale.

Four months later, the Gannett Co. purchased the Bingham newspaper property, reportedly for more than $300 million.