Cornell volumes rise from the ashes

BOOKS & AUTHORS

June 26, 1994|By James H. Bready

Fire broke out, on a Friday afternoon in April, in the storage warehouse of Cornell Maritime Press. There on the Eastern Shore, outside Centreville, the frame warehouse has been a fixture, close to the office building. The staff had left for the day, so no one was hurt when a welder's torch accidentally ignited a repair area.

Cornell (with its subdivision, Tidewater Publishers), in business 56 years now, had about 376,000 volumes in that warehouse. Some were saved -- about one-third of its inventory, says Arthur Kudner, president. The warehouse will be rebuilt on its foundations.

Cornell is the imprint for marine technology, Tidewater for general-reader regional books. At once, the firm went back on press with high-demand titles, e.g., "Modern Marine Engineer's Manual, Vol. I, 2nd edition," a $55 necessity for bayfarers. Orders from its spring 1994 list are being filled. But the past works of Priscilla Cummings, Dickson J. Preston, Mary U. Corddry, David C. Holly, Rex Barney, Donald G. Shomette, Roland L. Freeman, Gilbert Byron, John R. Wennersten? Mr. Kudner expects to reprint at least half the overall title list.

In some instances, April's fire has been not so much catastrophe as prod. "A Guide to Baltimore Architecture," by Sun art critic John Dorsey and James D. Dilts, its most recent edition dated 1981, needed an overhaul anyway. Researchers keep learning more; the exteriors of buildings keep modifying. The 1995 edition of Dorsey and Dilts will have new descriptions and new photos.

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Much is made of the Underground Railroad that spirited African-Americans northward from the slave states, between the Revolutionary War and Civil War. But there was a reverse "railroad," and somehow little has been published about it.

At all times, particularly in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, bounty hunters tracked the slaves who had fled captivity. The burden was on any black person to prove he or she was not a fugitive slave. The fate of a free black, seized by violence or trickery, was to watch as his or her papers were torn up, to be punished for protesting, to be shipped south and sold at auction. The kidnappers (among them a few blacks and a few women) were motivated, of course, by money. Kidnapping was common knowledge and flatly illegal, but in the prevailing mind-set of most whites, not worth getting excited over.

Carol Wilson, of Washington College in Chestertown, now floodlights this grim scene in "Freedom at Risk: The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America, 1780-1865" (University of Kentucky Press, $22). She notes that "free" blacks (born free or manumitted or buyers of their freedom) were never free in the white sense -- and the danger was greatest for children.

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Maryland Romance Writers and Anne Arundel Community College will hold an all-day conference July 23 on "Techniques for Writers: Attaining Best-Seller Status," at the college, in Arnold. Three Maryland romance writers -- Rhonda Pollero, Barbara Cummings, Jo-Ann Power -- are among the speakers. Cost (including lunch): members, $15; nonmembers, $50. Information: Jo Anne Dreyfus, (410) 584-2862.

Bill Cummings is publisher and Wilma Leber editor of the new, short-fiction RW magazine, Romantic Interludes. Based in Maryland, (P.O. Box 760, Germantown 20875), the magazine sells for $3.25 and solicits manuscripts ("holidays as a backdrop for romance") as well as subscriptions.

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"Dear Ann Landers:

"Remember that 1989 book, 'Staying Dry: A Practical Guide to Bladder Control,' by three Johns Hopkins medical people? You gave it a plug in the column and, well, 124,000 copies so far, the publisher says, and still selling well.

"A sequel is coming (October): 'Keeping Control: Understanding and Overcoming Fecal Incontinence,' by Marvin M. Schuster, M.D. (Johns Hopkins Hospital) and Jacqueline Wehmueller (Johns Hopkins University Press -- both books' publisher). 'Control' ($29.95; paper, $12.95) is endorsed in advance by the International Foundation for Bowel Dysfunction."

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Further off (1995), from JHUP: An anthology of some of the columns of Mike Olesker of The Sun. Representing him was an old friend, Ronald Shapiro, agent for sports and now media figures. On last word, everybody was open to suggestions for a good book title.

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Something else nice, to look forward to: Anne Tyler's latest novel is on Alfred A. Knopf's publication calendar -- next June. It's "The Ladder of Years." Publishers Weekly says that "it concerns a wife and mother who, convinced her family no longer needs her, sets out to make a new life."

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