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Sunday, September 1, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Publishers Gear Up For Gift Season

'Tis the season for anniversaries - at least, it is this fall in the book business.

Two milestones are beginning to pump energy into a publishing industry still reeling from recession: The 50th anniversary of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the approaching 500th anniversary of Columbus' first voyage to the New World are together spawning enough books to fill a couple shelves in anyone's library.

The fall publishing season, traditionally the most significant because it segues neatly into the Christmas gift season, has its share of big books this year - and at 1,408 pages, Norman Mailer's long-awaited novel, "Harlot's Ghost," is Biggest of the Big. But the Pearl Harbor and Columbus anniversaries have produced a volume of pages that even Mailer can't match.

"Category-wise, those are the two big ones," says Marilyn Dahl, senior buyer at Pacific Pipeline, a regional distributor that supplies bookstores throughout the Northwest. "We have a total of about 25 titles on Pearl Harbor, and 35 on Columbus."

Dahl is referring to everything her firm stocks, from audio cassettes to Samuel Eliot Morrison's 50-year-old classic, "Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus," which Little, Brown is reissuing in paperback. But her tally also takes into account such new books as Thurston Clarke's "Pearl Harbor Ghosts: A Journey to Hawaii Then and Now" and "The Mysterious History of Columbus" by New York Times science writer John Noble Wilford.

Besides Columbus and Pearl Harbor, there is one other publishing "event" to take notice of this fall: a sequel to a novel by a long-dead author.

Gushes a hopeful Warner Books: "There is hardly a person alive today who does not intimately know the saga of Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler . . . for over half-a-century, the burning questioned has remained, `What happened next?' "

Or, how can more money be milked out of Margaret Mitchell's perennial cash cow, "Gone With the Wind"? The answer from the Mitchell estate was to hire romance writer Alexandra Ripley ("New Orleans Legacy") to crank out "Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's `Gone With the Wind'." Ripley's answer to the burning question will go on sale later this month.

Frankly, "Scarlett" will have her work cut out for her. Also vying for the attention of pop-fiction fans will be new books from such blockbuster writers as Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Ken Follett, Dick Francis and Frederick Forsyth.

Fans of biography and autobiography can look forward to new books about personalities ranging from Cher to former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. And don't forget Katharine Hepburn, whose long-awaited autobiography, "Me," will be released, while two other other famous folks - Josef Stalin and Martha Graham - will be the subjects of two books each.

If your taste runs along more literary lines than Cher retrospectives, you should be looking forward to new novels from Anne Tyler, Robertson Davies, Pete Dexter and Jane Smiley. But whatever you enjoy, 'tis the season to find much to read. On the right, you'll find a half dozen of the fall's more eagerly anticipated titles; below, begins a selection of upcoming books in four categories. Happy reading.

POPULAR FICTION

"Russka" (Crown) puts the current Soviet upheaval in historical context by tracing four ethnically diverse families in this "panoramic" novel of Russia by Edward Rutherfurd, author of "Sarum." -- "No Greater Love" (Delacorte) is Danielle Steel's 28th novel, also destined for best-seller charts. In this romantic saga, Edwina Winfield survives the sinking of the Titanic, but her life is forever affected by the tragedy. -- "The Deceiver" (Bantam) ranges from the Cold War to the Persian Gulf War in the new espionage thriller by Frederick Forsyth ("The Day of the Jackal"). -- "Comeback" (Putnam) is the latest from dependable Dick Francis, this one involving a young diplomat puzzling a mystery about racehorse breeding. -- "Daughter of the Red Deer" (Dutton) is Joan Wolf's

novel of tribal conflict in Ice Age Europe, for those missing their Jean Auel fix this fall. "Night Over Water" (Morrow) is Ken Follett's new thriller, this one set in the luxurious Pan Am Clipper carrying an international cast of characters over the North Atlantic in 1939. "Flowers in the Rain and Other Stories" (St. Martin's) is a new collection of short stories by the author of "The Shell Seekers." "Make No Bones" (Mysterious Press) is the latest mystery featuring forensic anthropologist Gideon Oliver, by Edgar Award-winning author - and Puget Sound resident - Aaron Elkins. "The Reckoning" (Henry Holt) focuses on the reign of England's Henry III in Sharon Kay Penman's final volume of the trilogy that began with "Here Be Dragons." "Hour of the Hunter" (Morrow) pits a woman, her son and a Native American wise woman against an ex-con bent on revenge - and marks a return to her Southwest roots by Seattle mystery writer J.A. Jance.

LITERARY FICTION

"Saint Maybe" (Knopf) probes a young man's guilt and his search for personal salvation in this new novel by Anne Tyler, author of "The Accidental Tourist" and "Breathing Lessons." "Sarah Canary" (Henry Holt) is Karen Joy Fowler's novel tracing the life of a white woman who stumbles into a Chinese railway workers' camp in 1873 near Tacoma, in Washington Territory. "Mating" (Knopf) is an unlikely comedy of manners set in the Kalahari Desert and involving the courtship of two Americans, by Norman Rush, author of the highly praised story collection, "Whites." "Brotherly Love" (Random House) focuses on two cousins who grow up in the Philadelphia mob in the latest novel by Pete Dexter, a National Book Award-winner ("Paris Trout") who lives on Whidbey Island. "Searoad: The Chronicles of Klatsand" (HarperCollins) is Ursula Leguin's collection of linked stories set in a small town on the Oregon coast. "Murther & Walking Spirits" (Viking), a new novel by Canada's Robertson Davies, features a hero who is killed in the first sentence by his wife's lover, then lingers as a ghost. "The Sweet Hereafter" (HarperCollins) is Russell Banks' illuminating meditation on the lives of small-town people wrenched apart by a school-bus tragedy. "Duck and Cover" (HarperCollins) is Seattle novelist Brenda Peterson's wry look at a rootless "nuclear family" (father a diplomat, mother a CIA employee) thrown into action by an imagined Armageddon. "A Thousand Acres" (Knopf) has echoes of "King Lear" in this novel by Jane Smiley about an Iowa farm family in the 1970s. "Almanac of the Dead" (Simon & Schuster) is Leslie Marmon Silko's epic novel blending the magic of ancient Native American culture with the realities of the contemporary Southwest. GENERAL NONFICTION

"Twilight of Empire: Inside the Crumbling Soviet Bloc" (Atlantic Monthly Press) is a close-up view of the momentous changes in the Soviet Union and its one-time East European satellites, by Robert Cullen, former Moscow bureau chief for Newsweek. Two of the major books revisiting Pearl Harbor on the 50th anniversary of Japan's surprise attack are "Long Day's Journey into War: December 7, 1941" (Dutton), by Stanley Weintraub, and "Pearl Harbor Ghosts: A Journey to Hawaii Then and Now" (Morrow), by Thurston Clarke. "A Question of Treason: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan" (Times Books) is the book by Mideast scholar Gary Sick that has provoked a congressional investigation into the 1980 campaign. "Stepping Westward: The Long Search for Home in the Pacific Northwest" (Henry Holt) is Oregon writer Sallie Tisdale's appreciation of the variety of life and nature in her native Northwest. "Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War" (Random House) probes the events and personalities that produced World War I, by Robert K. Massie, author of "Nicholas and Alexandra." "PrairyErth (a deep map)" (Houghton Mifflin), the new book by William Least Heat-Moon, is not a cross-country ramble such as his earlier "Blue Highways" but a close-up look at Chase County, Kan. "Islands, the Universe, Home" (Viking) is a new collection of essays by Gretel Ehrlich ("The Solace of Open Spaces") that range from the natural landscape to the landscape of the heart. "The Scramble for Africa: The White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1910" (Random House) is Thomas Pakenham's chronicle of how five rapacious European powers seized and subjugated a continent in only 34 years. "These Young Lives: Still Separate, Still Unequal: Children in America's Schools" (Crown) is a searing indictment of the built-in inequality of our public-school system, by Jonathan Kozol, author of "Death at an Early Age." "Native Roots: How the Indians Nourished America" (Crown) is Jack Weatherford's examination of the practices European pioneers learned from Native Americans and how that legacy affects us today.

PEOPLE'S LIVES

"I Could Never Be So Lucky Again" (Bantam), by Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, with Carroll V. Glines, is the autobiography of the famed World War II bomber pilot. "Totally Uninhibited: The Life and Wild Times of Cher" (Morrow) is Lawrence J. Quirk's biography of Cherilyn Sarkisian - Cher - who rose from being Sonny Bono's musical sidekick to film stardom as an Oscar-winning actress. "Koop: The Memoirs of the Former Surgeon General" (Random House) contains the career memories and views (abortion, AIDS) of C. Everett Koop, the only surgeon general most folks can remember. "Churchill: A Life" (Henry Holt) is a one-volume distillation of Martin Gilbert's eight-volume masterwork about the British statesman. Martha Graham, the pioneering dancer and choreographer who died in April at age 96, is the subject of two major books, her own "Blood Memory: An Autobiography" (Doubleday), and "Martha: The Life and Work of Martha Graham" (Random House), a biography by another great dancer/choreographer, Agnes de Mille. "A Fire in the Mind: The Life of Joseph Campbell" (Doubleday), by Stephen and Robin Larsen, is a biography of the late scholar and mythologist who became a best-selling author after talking with Bill Moyers on PBS. "Dance While You Can" (Bantam) is Shirley MacLaine's new memoir, this one focusing on her family relationships and Hollywood career. The life and career of the Soviet dictator, Josef Stalin, is the subject of two biographies: "Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy" (Grove Weidenfeld), by Dmitri Volkogonov, edited and translated by Harold Shukman, and "Stalin" (Viking), by Robert Conquest. "Blackbird: The Life and Times of Paul McCartney" (Dutton) is a portrait of the pop star and songwriter by Geoffrey Giulianno, who earlier wrote a biography of another former Beatle, George Harrison ("Dark Horse"). "Orwell: A Biography" (HarperCollins) is Michael Shelden's profile of the influential British author of "1984" and "Animal Farm," based on original interviews and previously undiscovered documents.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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