Books: Cover Stories

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CONFLICT-OF-interest corner. Pretty soon, some cultural grandee may well stand up in the House of Lords and ask if this week's surprise takeover of Hodder Headline by W H Smith (see `A Week in Books', page 12) will lead to unfair promotion for the publisher's bestsellers. Will every Smith's front table now groan with piles of books by Hodder stars - such as, for instance, Melvyn Bragg? And what will the government benches have to say on this potential competition-killer? Answer, please - Lord Bragg?

THE WORD nepotism springs to mind but, as no one other than agent and publisher have read the few pages so far written of Standing Room Only, we will have to give Eve Rice the benefit of the doubt. She is Sir Tim's daughter and, at 24, was conceived as her father and his ex-collaborator Andrew Lloyd Webber were at work on Evita. Tall, blonde, blue-eyed, she is also a model and an aspirant rock star. No guesses as to the subject of her novel, for which Hodder is said to have paid a lot of dosh.

DAVE MCTAGGART, the legendary founder of Greenpeace, is sitting in the shade of his Italian olive grove writing his memoirs, to come from Simon & Schuster next year. McTaggart has been hard at work for some time, though progress was interrupted by a heart attack from which he has now happily recovered. He was running his own construction company when an on-site explosion killed several workers and gave him pause for thought. He bought an old boat and set sail, finding himself in the South Seas just as the French were about to begin nuclear testing. He refused to leave and was temporarily blinded when the French Navy boarded his ketch. Out of that incident was born Greenpeace.

SCIENCE PUBLISHING, says the brainy end of the book biz, is the new rock'n'roll. Tell that to the judges of the new pounds 30,000 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction, who have studiously ignored this year's rich crop of pop-sci in their shortlist. Did biologist Lewis Wolpert persuade Cherie Booth and the rest of the panel that nothing on the long list (eg, Richard Dawkins and Edward O Wilson) came up to scratch? So the nearest we get to the lab in the final half-dozen are the diagnostic parts of John Diamond's affecting account of his battle with cancer, C. The award will be decided on 14 June.