Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
FILM DIRECTOR Ken Russell is no stranger to controversy, so he'll be braced for the furore that will attend publication in June of his debut novel, Mike and Gaby's Space Gospel, by Little, Brown. It puts "an intergalactic spin" on episodes from the Bible. "Mankind" is an audacious experiment by two robots whose spaceship hovers over the Garden of Eden. Russell's SF take on the Good Book features such sparkling episodes as "Virgin Birth at the Holy Day Inn", "Lox 'n' Bagels for Five Thousand" and "The Last Cuppa". Even the former Bishop of Durham, who once referred to the resurrection as "a conjuring trick with bones", might not be inclined to laugh.

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LESS THAN a year after the death of Catherine Cookson, her trustees are already much exercised by Kathleen Jones's biography. A tabloid serial inevitably sensationalised the facts, but it seems likely the book itself will be an intelligent and considered affair. Jones (to be interviewed on this page next Saturday) is an academic whose books include a scholarly account of the Lake Poets' wives. It does seem, however, that Cookson's gifts as a storyteller were much used when she wrote of her own life. Her ceaseless productivity (90 novels in print, a few still to come) was the only way she maintained a grasp on sanity. Even in her late eighties, she had a serious breakdown during an inactive period, when nightmare images of childhood flooded back to haunt her.

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HILLARY CLINTON famously quipped that she wasn't going to stay home and bake cookies, though she once did just that to soften the hearts (and teeth) of the White House press corps. Now she's joining the ranks of celebrity chefs with An Invitation to the White House, described by Simon & Schuster as a "how-to guide to lifestyle and entertaining" at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Some 20 shindigs will be showcased and, presumably, there'll be advice on which way to pass cigars.

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AFTER YEARS spent staring at the word processor, Tim Rice has finished volume one of his autobiography. It's clear he is going to settle scores with his former partner, Andrew Lloyd Webber. And there's a growing rumour that the man who once compared himself to Mozart has wasted no time in getting even. His memoirs are alleged to have been scheduled for this autumn by Random House, but not put in their catalogue.

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