NEW YORK — "Skywriting by Word of Mouth," a collection of never-before-published short works and drawings by the late John Lennon, will be published by Harper & Row on what would have been the former Beatle's 46th birthday, Oct. 9. Much of the work, including the famous "Ballad of John and Yoko," dates from Lennon's "househusband" period after his son Sean was born in 1975. Lennon withdrew from public life at that time and was preparing to re-emerge when he was shot to death outside his apartment at the Dakota in December, 1980. For a long time, widow Yoko Ono refused to allow publication of the drawings and short prose pieces, but later she clearly had a change of heart. Lennon's two earlier works, "In His Own Write" and "A Spaniard in the Works," sold 330,000 copies in hardcover in this country. With an afterword by Yoko Ono, Harper & Row will print an initial run of 50,000 copies of "Skywriting." Said company spokesperson Lisa Fillman: "I think he represents, to a lot of people, a whole generation."
A JOURNALIST'S PROGRESS: Former Wall Street Journal reporter and Newsweek senior writer Allan Mayer has been named executive editor at Arbor House. Mayer also briefly tried his hand at Hollywood, working as a writer/producer, but found "the truth of the old cliche, that the movie business is not so much about making movies as it is about making deals." Since joining Arbor House, Allan has acquired, among other works, "The End of the Dream," by Robert Holtz (about the space shuttle Challenger and alleged mismanagement at NASA), and "Bad News at Black Rock," Peter McCabe's inside story of the decline at CBS News.
MEMO FROM MERCURY: Until very recently, there was no relationship at all--save a coincidence of names--between Mercury Theater and Mercury House. The former was founded by Orson Welles and John Huston in 1937, with Joseph Cotten among the actors. The latter is a new publisher that came out with its second season of books Sept. 15. Next April, however, a Mercury/Mercury marriage of sorts will be consummated, as it were, with the publication of Cotten's memoirs, "Orson and Me."
CENSORSHIP BUSTERS: As part of an anti-censorship-awareness campaign, Dell Publishing Co. Inc. has produced and is distributing anti-censorship bumper stickers ("Don't Let Others Choose What You Can Read") and decals. The material is being sent to retailers, periodical wholesalers, trade publications, distributors and their publishers. Comments Dell President William A. Lindsay: "Preserving the freedom to read, and all First Amendment rights, is essential to our business and to the nation as a whole."
YOUTH MARKET: Book-of-the-Month Club has launched a children's book series, Start Smart Books, geared from baby level to pre-adolescents.
PROBING QUESTIONS: Why are there so many species of beetles (more than 300,000)? From David Quammen, author of "Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature" (part of Dell's new Laurel Trade Paperback line), this response: "I don't know. I don't know anyone who knows. A theologian one asked a biologist what inferences one could draw, from a study of the created world, as to the nature of its Creator. The biologist answered, 'An inordinate fondness for beetles.' "
ROYAL ROUNDUP: And now, from former Royal Family butler Peter Russell, author with journalist Paul James of the forthcoming "At Home With the Royal Family" (out next February from Harper & Row), proof positive that the reigning monarch does have a sense of humor. It is well known, Russell reports, that many homosexuals are hired to work at Buckingham Palace. Clearly cognizant of and not particularly concerned by this fact, Queen Elizabeth was heard to remark, "Would one of you queens get this old queen a gin and tonic?"
HOUSE SWARMING: Mega-bestseller Barbara Taylor Bradford ("A Woman of Substance," "Voice of the Heart," "Hold the Dream," "Act of Will") has moved to Random House, where a three-novel deal has been negotiated by agent Morton L. Janklow. Ballantine Books will publish paperbacks of the new Bradford books. More than 12 million copies of "A Woman of Substance" are now in print worldwide.
PULL OUT THE POPCORN: Jonathan Kellerman's best-selling crime mystery novel, "When the Bough Breaks," is being made into an NBC movie by Taft Entertainment in association with TDF Productions. The book won this year's Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America.