Speculation was rife about the staggering amount of champagne flowing at last week’s launch for Man Belong Mrs Queen – about the Pacific tribe who worship the Duke of Edinburgh. The bookshop, Stanford’s in Covent Garden, central London, denied having provided it, as did the author Matthew Baylis, his editor, and his agent. So who was the mystery benefactor? Those who'd read the book noted how the cultists of Tanna island, in the South Pacific, attribute all good things to their god, Prince Philip. Had the Duke been at work in Stanford’s Bookshop, too? “I did invite him,” said Baylis. “But he never replied.” Staff at Old Street Publishing assure Between the Covers that they really have no idea where the gift came from. “Maybe this was Philip’s way of answering,” they suggest.
During the launch party, there was in fact one dramatic moment when the room went eerily quiet. Heads turned as a stooped, well-dressed, elderly gentleman descended the stairs with a regal air. Had HRH the Duke of Edinburgh accepted the author’s invitation? Sadly not. The visitor was a mere commoner, who had taken a wrong turn looking for the loos. Matthew Baylis was left, still waiting for Prince Philip. Just like the good people of the Pacific.
The latest thing in erotic fiction, we’re told, is “a contemporary take on the classic choose-your-own-adventure format” in which the reader “is in complete control of the story” and ultimately “in charge of her own happy ending”. A Girl Walks into a Bar by Helena S Paige begins with our heroine all dressed up at an exclusive bar when she is stood up by her friend. What should she do? Helena S Paige turns out to be the pseudonym of three writing friends, one of whom is Sarah Lotz, aka one of the horror writing team S L Grey. Let’s hope that this novel turns out to be less horrifying when it is published as a paperback on 19 December.
The launch of Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World, by the broker’s senior director Philip Hook, is to be held, appropriately, at Sotheby’s tomorrow. Disappointingly, it is in the evening, but Between the Covers hopes that Rice Krispies will be served along with the champagne, just for the sake of neatness.