Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
THE NEWS that Robin Baird-Smith, the much-loved MD of the century- old Duckworth, has been summarily sacked was greeted with utter consternation this week. His four-year tenure had seemingly turned the company around. He kept Beryl Bainbridge in the firm, and enjoyed success with such unlikely bestsellers as Terry Major-Ball, Rabbi Schmuley Boteach and John Bayley. But it seems that Stephen Hill, the venture capitalist behind the new Duckworth, was not happy. Baird-Smith had been insufficiently enthusiastic about Duckworth Literary Editions, which comprises Duck Films and Drake Editions, an enterprise set up with the specific intention of dancing a lucrative two-step with Hollywood. Now Tom Medley, the film director brought in by Hill, becomes head of the whole group, although it's unclear if he understands the classics list, or the Tavistock Clinic books. Former chairman Colin Haycraft's widow, Anna (the novelist Alice Thomas Ellis), is said to be happy with the new arrangements. Baird-Smith, meanwhile, is consulting his lawyers.

THE COURAGE of BBC TV sportscaster Helen Rollason cannot fail to impress. Diagnosed with terminal cancer last year, she has conceded no quarter to the illness and works regularly. She's now writing a memoir, having been signed up by Hodder's Roddy Bloomfield, editor of Dickie Bird and Sir Alex Ferguson. Rollason's publication date gives her yet another goal: spring in the new millennium.

WHAT'S described as "the single most important archive of Charles Dickens papers" this century comes up for sale at Sotheby's later this month. It has been handed down in the Dickens family and includes publishing agreements annotated by the novelist, which provide vivid backgrounds to the writing and publication of The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, among other novels. The material reveals bitter fallings out between author and his publisher, Chapman & Hall, as Dickens fought to receive remuneration to match the success of his work. His battles made it possible for an author to retain a continuous share of the profits from his writing. There are 28 lots, and the most significant are expected to fetch pounds 200,000.