Between The Covers: 13/02/2011

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

Responses to last week's announcement of a new, Man Booker "Best of Beryl" Prize have met with various responses: from "At last, finally an honour for the perennial Booker bridesmaid..." to "It's not much use to her now she's dead."

Ms Bainbridge was shortlisted for the prize a record five times, you see, but none of her novels ever won. Now, readers can log on to www.themanbookerprize.com/news/vote and choose the best of her five shortlisted novels. (Maybe the Booker's god-like director, Ion Trewin, knows how to get £50,000 worth of prize money to her, wherever she is.) Beryl butched out her Prize rejection, and could be relied upon to be at all the Booker parties, often with her friend and partner in crime, Bernice Rubens. Someone from Between the Covers once watched a ditzy young gossip columnist prance up to the pair and, on learning that they were writers, suggest that maybe they too might win a little prize one of these days. They cackled, but kindly didn't mention that Rubens won the second ever Booker Prize for her fourth novel, The Elected Member, in 1970. The redoubtable and much-missed Ms Bainbridge probably realised that, even if she had won the Booker, there was no guarantee that anyone would have remembered.

***

With sales of books suffering as recession bites, it is inspiring to note an upswing at the magnificent secondhand and rare books shop, Halcyon Books, in Greenwich. The current sale there offers many books at £1 each, and they're being snapped up. It is, admittedly, a touch less gratifying to learn that the sale is attracting swarms of interior designers, who are buying literature by the metre. You can see the attraction if you look at fancy bookshops such as classicbindings.net, which offers antique, leather-bound "library sets" at £1,660 per metre, or individual books, including John William Hiort's A Practical Treatise on the Construction of Chimneys (1826) for £2,000. Still, Halcyon might be the better bet, even if you're looking for a book to actually read.

***

A frightening insight into the mind of a debut author from Nigel Fletcher, whose entertaining and immaculately researched How to be in Opposition (Total Politics, £14.99) is published this week. His Facebook statuses over the course of one hour last week read: "[I'm] currently storming up the charts at number 80 in the Amazon 'Political Structures and Processes' bestseller list. Rock 'n' roll ... Down from number 61 an hour ago, mind. People are so fickle ... Spoke too soon – gone back up to #27. Not that I'm remotely obsessed, oh no ... I'm currently two places above Cicero, and four above Walter Bagehot. But to be fair to them, they are both dead ...." It begins to seem that those authors were lucky to be spared such torment.

***

Could this be the new ubiquitous literary genre for 2012? Simon & Schuster has just announced its acquisition of a new series of children's novels "written by a very successful children's author under the pseudonym Amber Castle". The books, aimed at girls aged seven to nine, are based on Arthurian legend, and follow the young Guinevere "as she embarks on a quest to protect the enchanted island of Avalon from the evil sorceress Morgana la Fey". The series will be launched in March 2012, and seems quite likely to spawn a rush of inferior imitations. Here at Between the Covers, we don't care – just give us an end to all the teen vampire books, please.

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