Despite the recession, Maryland authors are experiencing a banner year

December 29, 1991|By James H. Bready

Recession, you say? No sign of a slump hereabout in the drafting of publishable words, or in the publishing of printed and bound general-reader books about Maryland or by Marylanders. How publishers and booksellers may have fared financially in 1991 is another matter, but authors and illustrators were as active as ever. Herewith, the annual attempt to list them all, joined to the annual apology to anyone overlooked (annex next month).

Fiction had a great year, what with two titles on the top-10 lists -- Tom Clancy's "The Sum of All Fears" and Anne Tyler's "Saint Maybe" -- and big novels from three other local-campus notables: John Barth's "The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor," Madison Smartt Bell's "Dr. Sleep" and Stephen Dixon's "Frog," which was nominated for the National Book Award. Mary Cahill was the author of "Carpool," Lee Moler of "Baltimore Blues," a thriller. Barbara Mertz added "The Last Camel Died at Noon" to her Elizabeth Peters novels. For short stories, there was Sun reporter Rafael Alvarez's latest Story Co. paperback.

In romance fiction, Nora Roberts led the way as usual -- nationally, very likely -- with seven new titles out, two of them promptly on best-seller lists. Others with books out this year included Binnie Syril Braunstein (as Binnie Syril), Mary Jo Putney (three titles), Linda Shertzer (as Melinda Pryce), Louise Titchener (as Jane Silverwood, three titles), Chassie West (as Joyce McGill), Ruth Glick and Eileen Buckholtz (as Rebecca York, two titles), Kathryn Jensen (as Nicole Davidson), Ellen Rawlings and Mary Kirk.

Biography's bellwether was "The Man to See: Edward Bennett Williams, Ultimate Insider, Legendary Trial Lawyer," by Evan Thomas. Another big book, by Kenneth Silverman, was "Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance," the first present-generation biography; it joins Baudelaire in calling Poe's death here "almost a suicide." From two generations earlier: Caroline H. Keith's "For Hell and a Brown Mule: the Biography of Millard E. Tydings." William S. McFeely added to the literature on "Frederick Douglass." Arch Frederick Blakey did a life of "Gen. John H. Winder, C.S.A.," the prison camp head. Julie Roy Jeffrey's latest book was "Converting the West: A Biography of Narcissa Whitman."

The shelf of Johns Hopkins medical biographies ever grows: "Alfred Blalock: His Life and Times," by William P. Longmire Jr. Larry Warren's "Anna Sokolow: The Rebellious Spirit" profiled a dancer. And a mathematician from India fascinated reviewers of Robert Kanigel's "The Man Who Knew Infinity: a Life of the Genius Ramanujan."

Does the approaching end of a millennium arouse the history urge? The presence of war was what stirred the uniformed contributors to Kimberly Franklin's collection, "Dear America: Letters from the Gulf." From an earlier war, a graphic series volume: "Freedom: a Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861- 1867," edited by Ira Berlin and others. "The Origins of the Social Sciences" was by Dorothy Ross, "The Reign of Thutmose IV by Betsy M. Bryan.

In local history always a flow, never an ebb. "The Baltimore Book: New Views of Local History" (Elizabeth Fee, Linda Shopes, Linda Zeidman, editors) dared question the establishment version of events and trends. Neil A. Grauer's "Baltimore: Jewel of the Chesapeake" was the new decade's first big text-and-photos treatment. Thanks to "Baltimore's Cast-Iron Buildings and Ancient Ironwork," by Phoebe B. Stanton and David G. Wright (James D. Dilts and Catherine F. Black, editors), that part of yesterday will never entirely vanish. Carleton Jones did a similar service in "Streetwise Baltimore: The Stories Behind Baltimore Street Names." Mary Corddry's "City on the Sand" was the book for beach reading at its subject, Ocean City. For Chesapeake Bay boat reading: "The James Adams Floating Theater," by C. Richard Gillespie. Also the Bay: "Tidewater by Steamboat," David C. Holly's narrative of the old-time Weems Line. Word-true, picture-lavish and fine for Christmas giving: "Shorebirds: The Birds, the Hunters, the Decoys," by John M. Levinson and Somers G. Headley.

"Cumberland to Grafton, 1848-1991" was a stirring recall of railroading in the West End or mountain subdivision of the lamented Baltimore & Ohio. In "Robert Cole's World: Agriculture and Society in Early Maryland," Lois Green Carr, Russell R. Menard and Lorena S. Walsh relate what life was like for a 17th century planter. Margaret Law Callcott edited the early-1800s letters of Rosalie Stier Calvert, the "Mistress of Riverdale." Jane Bromley Wilson read maps and deciphered headstones for "The Very Quiet Baltimoreans: a Guide to the Historic Cemeteries and Burial Places of Baltimore." Catherine Reef's "Baltimore" was a series guide for new arrivals. "A Guide to Newspapers and Newspaper Holdings in Maryland," fulfilling this state's obligation the U.S. Newspaper Project, cataloged 2,356 Maryland mastheads so far, among about 190,000 nationally, and aided scholars unnumbered.

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