Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
PUBLISHERS WILL not want to be too up-front about it, but the coming months will see a steady repackaging of the Iris Murdoch oeuvre. Handily for Random House (which includes her hardback publishers, Chatto), her paperback rights have all but reverted from Penguin; Vintage will publish her in soft covers. Meanwhile, Peter Conradi, an academic and long-standing friend, is at work on an authorised biography, which was bought by HarperCollins last autumn. Dame Judi Dench has been named as the actress who will play Murdoch in the screen version of John Bayley's touching memoir, Iris.

IT'S QUITE a relief to know that Sir Edward Heath, whose memoirs took such a long time to write, has been rewarded for his efforts (aside, that is, from the pounds 350,000-odd Hodder added to his bank account). At the Channel 4/House Magazine Political Awards, the old curmudgeon beat off competition from, among others, Hugo Young and Douglas Hurd to win a glass statuette for Political Book of the Year - at least according to the customers at Politico's Westminster bookshop. Presenting the baubles, lanky newscaster Jon Snow confessed that he had first thought the book was called The Curse of My Life. The audience laughed but Heath remained impassive, appalled at yet another reference to the woman whom he refuses to call anything other than plain Mrs Thatcher.

PJ'S, THE trendy Covent Garden American-style restaurant, seemed an inappropriate setting for the launch of a book by one of Britain's greatest eccentrics, Dr Patrick Moore. His subject this time is Mars, which led one to speculate on the xylophonist's musical offerings: Bowie's "Life on Mars" or (more Moore's era) "Fly Me to the Moon"? Moore opted for his own compositions, released shortly on a CD from the Scottish National Orchestra. "It's coming out on my birthday," he told me excitedly, as his monocle dropped into his wineglass.

THE YEAR-END accounts of O'Mara Books make interesting reading. To March last year, sales grow from pounds 2.9m to pounds 8.17m; profit to pounds 1.2m against a previous loss of pounds 376,084. The reason? A Paris car crash which "freed" Andrew Morton to recast his Diana biography in her own words. O'Mara is pessimistic about the future of royal publishing; all his hopes are now pinned to Morton's collaboration with Ms Lewinsky. Will they wax lyrical about their shared love of TS Eliot?

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