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The Independent Culture
CLARE ALEXANDER - the publisher who rescued Chris Patten from HarperCollins only to find herself in an untenable position at Macmillan - has announced her latest move. As predicted, she has decided to join the ranks of publishers-turned-agents, of which the most celebrated is ex-Cape director David Godwin, discoverer of Arundhati Roy. It had been suggested that Alexander would join the Godwin agency. Instead, she has accepted an offer from Gillon Aitken, erstwhile partner of the unsocialised Andrew Wylie. Meanwhile, Macmillan, and Viking, from whom she also parted acrimoniously, must be awaiting the terms of Alexander's vengeance.

SUCK, DON'T Blow, which sounds like one of those Congressional reports, is in fact "the gripping story of the vacuum cleaner and other labour- saving machines". Michael O'Mara Books publishes the book next month and there is, apparently, no truth in the rumour that it includes a foreword by Bill Clinton. Those whose appetite for details of the Starr Report remains unsated will be delighted to learn that Orion has already rush- released the full text of the Special Prosecutor's findings, with Simon & Schuster following suit next week. That should knock Irvine Welsh's Filth off the bestseller lists.

IN THE high street, Austicks is no more, Heffers is on the block, while profits at Foyles are down 11 per cent. Meanwhile, the Maher name is rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the Dillons-Pentos collapse. Tony Maher, son of Terry (who built up Dillons and fought the NBA), is building towards a national operation. Maher the Bookseller opens its fifth branch in Edgware next month and plans another before Christmas. The question is, has Maher Junior - ex-manager of the Birmingham branch of Dillons - learned from the costly mistakes of his father?

NEXT THURSDAY sees the announcement of the Booker shortlist. All the usual suspects are likely to be included and, with Douglas Hurd chairing the judging panel, it's possible that 1998 may see a breakthrough for the sort of genre fiction that is usually excluded. The former Foreign Secretary has, after all, written several crime novels. Much razzmatazz surrounds this year's prize, which is celebrating its 30th birthday. But could this be the last hurrah for the Booker? The food distributor is still trying to restructure and last week posted a 50 per cent fall in profits. But the Booker prize plays an important role in literary life and its demise would be keenly felt, even by the sugar and salmon suppliers for whom an invitation to the corporate shindig is highly prized.

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