Between The Covers: 02/10/2011

Your weekly guide to what's really going on in the world of books

*Authors will go to incredible lengths to be considered for the big prizes, but we've never heard of anyone bribing the judges with cod before.

However, we learn that Peter James, the author of Dead Man's Grip (the latest in his Brighton-set detective series), has offered a fish supper to anyone who votes for him in the People's Bestseller category at the Crime Thriller Awards on Friday. James has 4,800 followers on Twitter and has informed them all that if he wins he will treat them to fish and chips on Brighton pier on Wednesday 12 October. (Go to to cast your vote.)

*Early editions of Private Eye were designed so that you could grow cress on them. This ingenious gimmick was fondly remembered at Tuesday's Oldie literary lunch by the biographer Fiona MacCarthy. She was there to discuss her latest book, about the painter, Edward Burne-Jones; but she couldn't resist starting with a couple of reminiscences about her host Richard Ingrams, the founder of Private Eye and The Oldie, whom she has known for more than 50 years. "We were at Oxford together," she laughed. "I knew him when Private Eye was still a student rag. Back then it was called Mesopotamia, or Mess Pot for short. I remember one issue having a special cover, on which you could grow your own cress." Ingrams confirms: "It's quite true, we had the cover made of some kind of Hessian. And it actually worked."

*Those of you who missed Martin Rowson's cartoon last week, do not panic: not only is he back every Sunday, but there are options for all those other Rowson-free days of the week. Rowson's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is already published by SelfMadeHero, and a collection of his columns from this paper, The Limerickiad Volume 1: From Gilgamesh to Shakespeare, will be published by Smokestack Books in November. We can also reveal that his updated graphic adaptation of Gulliver's Travels will be out next March from Atlantic Books.

*News that a few million "virtual monkeys" have finished writing Shakespeare's "A Lover's Complaint" has exercised number theorists, philosophers and Shakespearians alike. This is a test of the old hypothesis that, given infinite time, an infinite number of monkeys would eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare by ran- domly hitting letters on an infinite number of keyboards. In an even more far-fetched visual concept, the "virtual monkeys" are computer programmes sitting on an Amazon cloud. The pretend monkeys have apparently 99.99 per cent completed the complete works project in remarkably short order, but real monkeys are lagging embarrassingly behind. According to a BBC report: "In 2003, Paignton Zoo carried out a practical test by putting a keyboard connected to a PC into the cage of six crested macaques. After a month the monkeys had produced five pages of the letter 'S' and had broken the keyboard."

*Here's a challenge to the record-breaking seller Jamie Oliver, whose latest book Jamie's Great Britain was released last week. Now, his imprint, Michael Joseph, has announced a new series of food books for spring 2012, including Saved by Cake by the novelist Marian Keyes. The book will give an account of her battle with depression and how baking helped her.

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