AT B. DALTON in The Gallery, the book stands in the window, featuring a certain slender woman in red.
"There's the book! Fifteen percent off!" chortles a businessman to his friends, and they all swing into the store for a closer look.
A high school girl drifts in with her friend, points at the book and says, "Did you hear the writer interviewed a thousand people for the book?"
Two women, each immersed in a copy of the book, jump apart with guilty laughter when asked what they are doing.
Yes, "Nancy Reagan, The Unauthorized Biography," has Baltimore enthralled. Since Monday, the day the 603-page biography by Kitty Kelley has had everybody talking about the provocative allegations in the book, which Kelley claims can all be substantiated: the Reagans' alleged use of marijuana, the many love affairs (including a long-running one between Nancy Reagan and Frank Sinatra), the use of astrology and Nancy's whims in plotting Oval Office policy.
Whether Baltimoreans believe the book is accurate or not, everyone wants a peek.
Kathy Richmond, assistant manager of Waldenbooks at Towson Town Center, describes the Reagan biography as "close to fiction . . . but it's entertainment."
The book has sold rapidly at Waldenbooks, priced at 25 percent off the list price of $24.95. Most bookstore chains are selling the book at a discount, because it is a best-seller.
The book may soon sell out, Richmond predicts, and she is unsure when a second order will arrive. Simon and Schuster, publishers of the book, printed a large first order of 600,000 copies to be distributed nationally.
For now, there are as many lookers as buyers.
"We do get a lot of people standing out where we have the book displayed, looking through and hysterically laughing," says Richmond. "The photographs help."
Such a reader was Monica Brandes, who spent her lunch hour skimming through the pictures of "Nancy Reagan" at B. Dalton in The Gallery. "I can't say I'm a Nancy fan, but I sort of feel sorry for her, because she did a lot of the things before she became a public person," Brandes says. Still, Brandes admits "if any public person had to be skewered, she is it." Brandes is not buying the book now, but says "I can't wait for the paperback."
A well-dressed businessman in the same store picked up the book, and skipped straight to the index to look up points of particular interest.
"I'm looking for the Sinatra part, but I'm not telling you my name!" the man says, laughing.
Brian Winters, assistant manager of B. Dalton in Annapolis, says the biography has sold steadily since it arrived Monday morning. In Annapolis, readers are buying the book, rather than hanging around just to read the juicy parts.
"A lot of people who come in know there are lots of good parts already, so they are interested in buying it," Winters says.
While the stores are filled with buyers, there is also a healthy smattering of naysayers.
"I'm not curious about it," insists Judson Butler, a student at St. John's College in Annapolis browsing for magazines in The Gallery's B. Dalton store. "This seems to be a reaction to the worthless book called 'My Turn' that Nancy wrote. I'd be interested in something with more historical value."
"It's one step above the National Enquirer. She's made it all up!" says Ivan Futrell about Kitty Kelley. "I have formed my opinion and I don't want to buy the book."