Books: Pick of the week

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The Independent Culture
"I always thought of writers as cerebral academics, and I certainly couldn't see myself in that role," admits Keith Temple, "but writing soap operas, I thought, ooh I could do that."

Now a scriptwriter on Eastenders, Temple visits the Bath Literature Festival on Sunday, to deliver up a few trade secrets, in a day devoted to soap writing, together with writers from Coronation Street, Brookside, Hollyoaks and The Archers.

A Geordie himself, Temple has been filling Walford mouths full of the requisite doses of "bang outta ordah" and "just leeevit aht Rickaii" for about four years. In fact, he managed to pen a classic Butcherism in his very first episode: "Yeah, Frank's back for good".

Unlike EastEnders, where writers are responsible for single episodes, on The Archers each writer gets to produce a week's worth of scripts at a time. "That way, I can try and make the Sunday omnibus sound like a play," explains Mary Cutler, the longest-serving member of the Ambridge writing team. In her time responsible for tackling Mark's funeral and Elizabeth's abortion, Cutler has this week been wrecking Tommy's 18th birthday party. Although the basic storyline is pre-ordained, Cutler is free to weave in all her pet topics - so learn to recognise her by the references to football, trips to Birmingham, and characters reading books.

The line-up of events in this year's Bath Literature Festival is so polarised that I could quite believe it was programmed by rival curators from Ambridge and Albert Square. Hear Mad Frankie Fraser's gangland lifestory; and find out about the criminal goings-on during the making of Mike Hodges' Brit- noir movie, Get Carter. Alternatively, choose from Doris Lessing, Mary Wesley or Joan Brady. Sue Townsend, meanwhile, previews her forthcoming Adrian Mole (left) novel, The Capuccino Years.

Bath Literature Festival (01225 463362), today until 6 Mar. Soap Day: Sun, Rondo Theatre: 11am Keith Temple & Jan McVerry on `EastEnders' & `Coronation Street'; 12.30pm Mary Cutler on `The Archers'; 2.30pm Lucy Gough & Peter Cox on `Brookside' & `Hollyoaks'. All-day ticket pounds 7.50/pounds 6 or pounds 4/pounds 3 per session.

Sue Townsend, today, 2.30pm; Joan Brady, Sunday, 5.30pm; Mike Hodges, Tue, 8.30pm; Frankie Fraser, Thur, 9pm; Mary Wesley, Fri,7pm; Doris Lessing, Fri 8.30pm. All in the Guildhall, Bath.

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