Books: Cover Stories

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The Independent Culture
PAUL HAMLYN, the publishing tycoon who became Lord Hamlyn of Edgeworth in the New Year honours, must be happy this week. For he has seen his Octopus name raised once more over a publishing house following a management buyout - believed to be in the region of pounds 33m - for the illustrated lists that once formed part of Reed Consumer Books. These included Hamlyn, with which the publisher first made his fortune, and Conran Octopus, in which Sir Terence has a proprietorial and an authorial interest, as well as Mitchell Beazley and Philip's: in other words, everything from Ordnance Survey to The Joy of Sex. Under the leadership of Derek Freeman, Octopus Publishing boasts a turnover of pounds 45m, 2000 titles and 500 authors.

PERHAPS NOTHING less than the reinstatement of the Romanovs will rescue Russia from its decline. Certainly, it looks as though a claimant to the throne is alive and well. According to Blood Relative, the memoirs of one "Michael Gray", published by Gollancz next month, the Tsarevich did not die with his family but escaped to father a child who discovered his real identity only recently. Gray believes he is the grandson of Nicholas and Alexandra. "The true story behind the last great mystery of the 20th century", or yet another hoax?

AND WHAT could be a more pleasant bedtime read than a book on Lenin's Embalmers? Due from Harvill, it is by Ilya Zbarsky, a biochemist who, for 18 years, worked at the mausoleum laboratory. His father Boris, on the instigation of Stalin, mummified Lenin's body in 1924 using a solution known as "balsam", a mixture of glycerine and potassium acetate, popular with Soviet leaders. The rest of us make do with formaldehyde. Abandoned since 1991, the mausoleum now survives by embalming the nouveaux riches.

TOM BOWER, who once famously took on Robert Maxwell, is checking proofs on an unauthorised biography of Mohamed Al Fayed. Publishers Macmillan will say nothing, but Bower is an obssessive who leaves no stone unturned and it is believed his book, due in November, will throw fresh light on the cash-for-questions affair and reveal "the truth" about the last week of Diana's life.

THE FORTHCOMING BBC series on The Cold War with its book, produced and written by Sir Jeremy Isaacs with Taylor Downing, promises to be every bit as riveting as his World at War, 25 years ago. The idea came from CNN tycoon Ted Turner, who sent an emissary to Isaacs back in 1994. "Turner was apparent1y under the impression that he was getting Jeremy Irons," Isaacs recalled.