Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
HOLLY LESTER by Anon has been doing the rounds since last October, when the Aitken & Stone agency was offering rights at Frankfurt. Dubbed a British Primary Colors (the US bestseller about the first Clinton campaign, whose similarly anonymous author was revealed as Newsweek's Joe Klein), it has been eagerly awaited by Westminster insiders. The eponymous heroine is married to "a young chap with a phoney smile", and Holly bears a striking resemblance to Cherie, QC. Macmillan had been all set to publish this roman a clef, but now a libel reading has given chief executive Richard Charkin pause for thought. Holly's friends include rather too many characters familiar to even a casual observer of the Parliamentary scene.

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TWO GIANTS of literature seem set for unlikely debuts on the London musical stage. Cameron Mackintosh has concluded a deal with California agent Ken Sherman for rights to John Updike's novel The Witches of Eastwick. Meanwhile, John Barry, the film composer, is planning a stage musical version of Brighton Rock. The Graham Greene novel has, like Updike's, already made a successful transition to the big screen. Barry has now teamed with West End impresario Bill Kenwright. He will reveal some of his ideas at the second Graham Greene Festival in Berkhamsted, the author's Hertfordshire birthplace, running from 30 September to 3 October. Further details: 01442 865158.

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AS THE new Piccadillly Waterstone's announces its stock plans and its catering contracts (Searcy's), in advance of its September opening, the chain's year-end results provide less than happy reading. Like-for-like sales have grown by just 1.5 per cent (previous growth has been around 8 per cent), prompting questions about strategy. Is concentrating on upmarket books such a smart idea when the top 10 shows a preponderance of titles such as Ground Force and The Guv'nor, which sell just as well at WHS? Meanwhile, publishers are angered by Waterstone's attempts to charge them pounds 100 for each backlist title on their core stock list, thus presenting even medium-sized firms with a bill for around pounds 25,000. The move is seen as a blatant attempt to boost cash flow.

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