Between the Covers 09/06/2013

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

With Rhys Ifans having rather boisterously exposed the charade of the celebrity interview last week, now is a good time to look at the place of the great publicity machine in the arts. Plaudits, then, to the anonymous author I J Kay, who jointly won (along with Ros Barber's The Marlowe Papers) the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award on Monday with her haunting book Mountains of the Moon, which was compared by the judges to J D Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. And even more kudos to her publisher, Jonathan Cape, which took her on despite the fact that she was quite upfront about being unwilling to do any publicity. None. Not even if she were to win the Man Booker Prize.

"I thought, and still think, that Mountains of the Moon is one of the most amazing first novels ever to land on my desk and I would have fought to publish it whatever the hurdles," her publisher Dan Franklin tells Between the Covers. "I suggested to the author various possible scenarios [her doing an interview with a friend whom she trusted absolutely, etc] but she rejected all of them. At that point, I knew she was serious and I respected her decision. I wrote to Ion Trewin and Bud McLintock [administrator of the Man Booker Prize and director of the Costa Prize, respectively], asking for the stipulation – that Booker or Costa authors must do publicity – to be waived. And they agreed."

Between the Covers is assured that rumours that Kay attended the Authors' Club party incognito are merely a figment of the other guests' overactive authorly imaginations.

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Those who have read our interview with Neil Gaiman will know that he is a multi-talented man, but Between the Covers has learned that he was narrowly beaten to his school's English prize … by Ian Hislop. Both men went to Ardingly College, in Sussex, and Hislop eventually became head boy. But when they were 12 and 13 the two boys were in stiff competition. "I was awarded the School English Prize when I was about 13 (having been fairly beaten to it the previous year by a 12-year-old Ian Hislop)," Gaiman has revealed. "The prize came with a Faber Book of Modern English Verse, and a copy of Return of the King (the school library only had the first two volumes of Lord of the Rings, and I'd read them several dozen times by that point, and I really wanted to know how it all ended)."

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The Independent on Sunday has three limited-edition copies of Gaiman's "lyrical, scary and beautiful" new novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane to give away. Just tweet @IndyonSunday before noon on Tuesday (11 June) explaining why you deserve one. We will contact our three favourites and send them a copy in time for the weekend. First, read his interview to make sure you're "tall enough to go on the ride".

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Congratulations to The IoS's "Invisible Ink" columnist Christopher Fowler, the winner of CrimeFest's eDunnit award for his novel Bryant & May and the Invisible Code (Transworld). He wins his second Bristol Blue Glass vase, putting him in an elite group of crime writers. Chris, the tulips are in the post.

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