books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
EACH TIME that Richard Branson's balloon went up, Virgin announced their intention of rushing out a book on his flight into history. They were somewhat previous. Brian Jones and Bertrand Picard preferred not to tempt fate, and sensibly waited until the Breitling Orbiter 3 had made it up, round and down before making any book plans. This week Headline won the project at auction, with a cheque believed to be in the region of pounds 250,000. An October publication date has been inked in but - in-flight diaries aside - not a word has yet been written. A kindly ghost will be appointed this week.


THE NUPTIALS of Edward and Sophie, Charles and Camilla's public dates... it's business as usual again for the Windsors. They shouldn't get too complacent: former Guardian editor Peter Preston is checking the proofs on a novel that will make for uncomfortable summer reading in the "books for Balmoral" hamper. Bess, due from Viking, opens in 2020. Charles has been killed in a riding accident (with a horse, one assumes); Wills and Harry have met a premature death in a helicopter crash. Harry's daughter, Bess, is taking her A-levels when she learns that she is the new Queen, a job in which she has no interest whatsoever...


FRED NOLAN, former jockey, thriller writer and the biographer of Lorenz Hart, is at work on a musical on the life of Mrs Beeton. Revered for her Book of Household Management, she was also a translator, introduced paper patterns to Britain and, astonishingly given her achievements, died at just 28. Nolan describes the likely result as "more Sandy Wilson than Rodgers and Hart".


SINCE SHE shot to fame in Hair, Marsha Hunt has never been one to rest of her laurels. In addition to her stage work, she has written three novels and an autobiography, as well as an account of her grandmother, born a slave. She also set up the Saga Prize for unpublished black writers. This week, energetic Scottish publisher Mainstream releases The Junk Yard, a collection of 15 stories from Hunt's writers' workshops in Dublin's tough Mountjoy Prison. "Write what you've lived, write what you know," Hunt told the inmates, mostly young heroin addicts. The results have been acclaimed by Roddy Doyle and Jennifer Johnston, who declares the collection "an extraordinary achievement".

The Literator