Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
DUCKWORTH THIS week celebrated its centenary with a dinner for 300 at the Dorchester. It also marked the launch of Duckworth Literary Entertainments, a film division headed by Tom Hedley of Flashdance fame. MD Robin Baird-Smith looked embarrassed to be there, Anna Haycraft (novelist Alice Thomas Ellis, widow of Colin Haycraft who ran the company for 30 glorious years), was visibly disapproving, while star author Beryl Bainbridge seemed to find it eccentric even by her standards. But Dame Iris Murdoch, accompanied by husband John Bayley, coped serenely with it all. Many of the guests appeared to be B-list celebs - among them punk svengali Malcolm McLaren. Heaven knows what he made of the specially-written grace by Jasper Griffin, Public Orator at Oxford, which was delivered in Greek.

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NO SUCH tawdry glitz for Martin Amis, whose launch for Heavy Water at the Polish Club confirmed him as the only host who can tempt Salman Rushdie in the direction of the dancefloor. With a late-nite start, a bopping pit and naff disco classics on offer, Amis kept up his tradition of bashes at which his own Keith Talent might feel quite at home.

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HOW APPROPRIATE that Frankfurt, seedy shrine to Mammon, was the setting of fierce bidding for the speculator/ philanthropist George Soros's book on The Crisis of Capitalism. Little, Brown chief executive and publisher Philippa Harrison bought rights for a rumoured $300,000 from US publisher Perseus, who stepped in when Soros quit Random House. The man who made a fortune out of the ERM disaster and has just lost a pile in Russia warns against the dangers of "market fundamentalism".

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RUPERT MURDOCH may be facing his own crisis of capitalism brought on by impending divorce proceedings. At Frankfurt, well-placed sources declared that NewsCorp had been in talks with Time Warner about book operations, although nobody seemed sure who was buying whom. The word is that Murdoch is talking to Viacom, which seems undecided what to do with Simon & Schuster. Murdoch either has to offload HarperCollins (not easy, given how much he overpaid for it) or else expand the operation.

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German-owned Macmillan has made a hostile bid for Cassell, whose most celebrated author (at Gollancz) is Nick Hornby. It values Cassell at pounds 7.3m: a figure chairman Philip Sturrock thinks derisory. But profits hover around a tiny pounds 500,000. Unless someone makes a better offer, Macmillan will have its way.

THE LITERATOR

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