Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
SO CAPE publisher Dan Franklin is put out that neither Roddy Doyle nor Salman Rushdie made the Booker shortlist. Well, they've both won before and will doubtless have another crack. Rushdie, at least, was still in contention at the bitter end. And Doyle should recall that Pat Barker only won when she completed her own historical trilogy with The Ghost Road. But publishers with tough decisions over what to submit for the Booker should perhaps play fewer dangerous games. They may submit novels by their past Booker winners and shortlisted authors, and then two more. The politics of this are tricky: authors and agents routinely demand a place on the list. And publishers sometimes submit their B-team in the fond belief that the judges will "call in" members of the A-team. However, the panel can only call in a limited number of titles, so each needs the backing of several judges. Sadly for Cape's Howard Jacobson, not enough of them wanted to call in his powerful but unsubmitted novel The Mighty Walzer. Perhaps Cape should have entered this heavyweight in the first place and made A L Kennedy or Julia Blackburn wait until another year. Congratulations, though, to Abacus, who bravely put forward debutant Daren King. Boxy an Star, his audacious experiment in poetic underclass English, made it into the last 10.


THE FIRST week's trading at Waterstone's Piccadilly is said to be "phenomenal" - a relief to publishers. But the pleasure it afforded marketing director Martin Lee was short-lived, for he this week announced he was leaving the company - with no job to go to. MD David Kneale, who arrived from Boots, has made no secret of the fact that he wants new blood, and a more populist approach. Lee and his like believe in the notion of "a Waterstone's customer", which led them to eschew some mass-market titles. Meanwhile, publishers are aggrieved to learn that some branches are already so short- staffed there's no time to see visiting reps. Ordering by local booksellers (rather than centrally) has until now been a crucial element in the Waterstone's culture.


ONE OF publishing's most enduring "marriages" is shortly to come to an end. Jilly Cooper this week announced that she was leaving her agent Desmond Elliott for the Curtis Brown group at the end of the year. It was Elliott who suggested she try her hand at a novel when he read her magazine stories in the 1970s. As in the best celebrity divorces, the couple remains good friends, with Elliott noting somewhat mournfully that, as an Irish Protestant orphan, he's used to disappointments.