Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
HarperCollins was this week forced to announce that Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans, is taking her biography of Chairman Mao to a rival. The word is that Chang is bowing to her own political realities. As a leading Chinese dissident, being published by the evil empire that refused the memoirs of Hong Kong's last governor, Chris Patten, would put her in an untenable position, even though her relationship with Murdoch's company is good. Patten's ousted editor Stuart Proffitt must have been hoping that Chang (with her husband and co-author Jon Halliday) would join him at his new berth with Penguin. Alas, she has opted for Hutchinson, part of Random House - already the book's publisher in the US, where the editor is the legendary Sonny Mehta.


Formerly controlled by Si Newhouse, Random House is now owned by Bertelsmann, the German media giant which also runs the Transworld imprints such as Bantam and Corgi. And this month, in a surprise move, the Orion Group, which includes Weidenfeld, joined the European trend to become part of the French company, Hachette Livre. So Little, Brown, part of Time Warner, and (assuming that Rupert Murdoch remains an American citizen) HarperCollins are left as the main British representatives of US publishing - which is itself now 70 per cent foreign-owned.


Arch-European Sir Edward Heath is checking corrections to his memoirs, due from Hodder at conference-tide. Whether, 25 years after he left Number 10, anyone cares enough to wade through its densely self-justifying prose (written with Lord Armstrong, among others) remains to be seen. The word is that the book is not exciting: industry insiders are whispering comparisons with the memoirs of Lord Young and Sir Norman Fowler. Inevitably, The Sunday Times has paid a lot for serial rights - for the second time. The first time they bought it, Heath neglected to write the book. Although he repaid the advance from Weidenfeld, the newspaper did not ask for a refund. Now it is looking to the publisher to refund the difference between the modest sum it paid then and the large one it has paid now. The result is that Weidenfeld is taking action against Heath. Lawyers for all three parties are huddling over the issue, which will not affect publication plans.


Everyone, it seems, wants to write a novel. The latest is chef and restaurateur Prue Leith, who has a two-book deal with Michael Joseph. The first novel, Indian Exposure, is described as "a novel of love and relationships written for the the older woman". Needless to say, food features heavily.

The Literator