Books: Cover Stories

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THE AVERAGE age of publishing's decision-makers is these days frighteningly young: Michael Lynton, who runs Penguin, is not yet 40. Yet, at 90 this month, Eva Neurath is still chairman of the company she founded with her husband Walter in 1949: Thames & Hudson. A doughty independent still and justly celebrated for its arts list, its roots can be traced back to the war years, when the refugee couple met while interned. They ploughed their savings of pounds 4,500 into their dream and, with a further pounds 2,500 from printer John Jarrold and engraver Wilfred Gilchrist, began publishing their first titles. Walter died in 1967 and his son Thomas took over as managing director; Eva remains far more than a token presence.

THAT WELL-KNOWN critic James Major recently described his father's forthcoming memoirs as "a rollicking good read". It's hard to imagine anything to do with John Major conforming to that adjective. However, his HarperCollins editor, Michael Fishwick, said that the book will be "the most revealing book to come from that office that there's ever been and he's writing it himself". Fishwick claims to have seen some 30,000 words and emphasises "it will be a work of non-fiction, as opposed to some political memoirs".

PITY POOR Eric Hobsbawm, the distinguished left-wing historian whose daughter Julia helped create the New Labour image her father must despise. A review of his essay collection Uncommon People in Publishers Weekly, the US trade mag, calls him "the late historian". Julia and his British publishers, Weidenfeld, will testify that he is very much alive and kicking.

EVEN THE most urban of us can recite chunks of the shipping forecast, though heaven knows what it means. Now a new book of paintings aims to give us a clue. Rain Later, Good contains 44 watercolours plus sketches by Peter Gollyer, who travelled 16,000 miles to capture the essence of "Dogger, Fisher, German Bight ... Cromarty ... Forth Tyne ...". His paintings aim to "demystify" the forecast and conjure up the locations and the people who live and work in them. The book is published by Thomas Reed, one of the oldest nautical publishers, and marks the 175th anniversary of the RNLI, for which it raises funds.

EARLIER THIS year, Molly Parkin's daughter, Sophie, burst into print. Now it's the turn of Erica Jong's 19-year-old, Molly Jong-Fast. Her first novel, Girl, has been the subject of a slew of international deals and, in the UK, Hodder & Stoughton bought it for a tidy sum. The publishers describe the book as "The Beautiful and the Damned for the millennium" and the writing as mature beyond her years.