Books: Cover Stories

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POST-DIANA, the market for royal books is not what it was, and there's as yet no rush to sign up titles on Edward and Sophie. So publishers' attention turns, not unnaturally, to those senior and sainted members of the family likely to fall off their lofty perches before too long. None is more sainted or senior than the Queen Mother. Even she must eventually head for that great gin palace in the sky, and publishers have no wish to be caught napping. It's always been assumed that numerous suitably effusive books lie in vaults, awaiting a final chapter. As we know, the race is to the swift, which is why Headline and O'Mara are now quietly taking orders for such books. O'Mara has been on the case since last summer, and Alastair Burnett is on standby to write those last oleaginous words.

SUE TOWNSEND is hoping for a crisis in the government, the better to propel the plot of The Cappuccino Years: the latest instalment of the diaries of A Mole, due in October. Now 30, and a Soho celebrity chef, he has voted for the object of his teenage affections, Dr Pandora Braithwaite, one of Blair's Babes. Mole is not uncritical. "I need Tony to come out as a proper Thatcherite," says Townsend, an Old Labour supporter who's always put her money where her mouth is.

BOOKISH TYPES not yet entangled in the Net will surely be delighted to know that, from next Monday, Waterstone's is offering free access via a deal with Yahoo!. Customers can pick up a free CD containing all the necessary software. Surfers will have access both to Waterstone's own site and the Yahoo! search facility, plus the World Wide Web. Meanwhile,

W H Smith has a tie-up with MSN and BT Click; further details have yet to be revealed.