Why have the NATO powers become embroiled in a seeming impasse while trying to do right by the ethnic Albanians in Yugoslavia? Free Press senior editor Paul Golob has found just the man to answer this frequently posed question: David Fromkin, who wrote a strong op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on the subject at the end of March. (Fromkin is also the author of A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922, from Avon, and the more recent The Way of the World, published by Knopf in January.) Fromkin proved willing, and Golob and his agent, Suzanne Gluck at ICM, worked out a hard/soft deal, with Touchstone to do the paperback. Golob said Fromkin will explain how America and the other NATO powers got involved in the conflict and why dealing with Balkan strongmen such as Slobodan Milosevic is particularly tricky. The book, to be called High Noon in Kosovo: Ideals Meet Realities on the Balkan Battlefields, will be rushed to bookstores by August 1.

Of course, if you need an explanation about Kosovo right away, you might want to pick up Kosovo: A Short History by N l Malcolm. It's currently at #14 on the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller list. New York University Press has just sold the paperback rights to HarperPerennial for a sum in the low six-figure range, according to NYU Press director Niko Pfund. The book should be available sometime this summer.

So she d sn't have a cable TV show or her own magazine, but watch out, Martha-she's got one heck of a house. Simon &Schuster has signed the First Hostess Hillary Rodham Clinton to author An Invitation to the White House, an illustrated history, cookbook and how-to guide to lifestyle and entertainment at the White House, showcasing 20 past events and shindigs both official and private. S&S trade president Carolyn Reidy negotiated the deal with Bob Barnett, the Clintons' lawyer. Like the First Lady's other S&S books, It Takes a Village (652,000 copies in print) and Dear Socks, Dear Buddy (352,000 copies in print), there's no advance and all proceeds will be assigned to a charity (to be named later). The book is scheduled for the fall with a 250,000-copy first printing. The book will be edited by senior editor Sydny Miner.

The notion of a kind of earthly paradise in a remote corner of the globe never entirely fades away, and it has been given new impetus by an American explorer and student of Buddhist lore living in Katmandu. He is Ian Baker, and when agent Owen Laster at William Morris recently brought him, on one of his rare U.S. visits, to talk to New York publishers, no fewer than six wanted to meet him. They had been fired up by a piece Baker wrote for National Geographic in which he describes a small expedition he led a year ago, after earlier abortive explorations, up the Tsangpo River, whose heavy rapids make it almost impossible to navigate. Baker found a spectacular 110-foot waterfall, which he christened Hidden Falls; it is apparent in his description that the area bears some resemblance to the mythical kingdom James Hilton created in Lost Horizon 60 years ago. During his stateside visit, a trio at Random House, Ann Godoff, Scott Moyers and Courtney Hodell, made a preemptive bid, understood to be around half a million, for North American and English-language rights to the tale. Baker -- who studied art, literature and anthropology here and at Oxford and also took a doctoral program in Buddhist studies -- is also the coauthor of Tibet: Reflections from the Wheel of Life (Abbeville) and a book on the art of healing.