Between the Covers 23/09/2012

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The Independent Culture

Between the Covers was only a tiny pamphlet when Politico's bookshop in Westminster was in its heyday, and spent many happy hours there drinking warm white wine and hobnobbing with minor politicos among the novelty political memorabilia, before it became an online bookshop, and then a publisher only. (Nobody could forget chatting with Christine Hamilton next to a pile of pants bearing political slogans: "A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out"; "Things Can Only Get Wetter"; "For the Many, Not the Few"; "No No No!"…)

So it is with great delight, then, that we welcome the return of under the auspices of its original owner, Iain Dale. For the moment, the online shop is concentrating on just selling the best-displayed and widest range of political books, but, "We'll get the party conferences out of the way and then find out what sort of political knickers we want to commission," Dale tells us. It's out with the old slogans and in with the new, however, and Dale would appreciate suggestions from IoS readers. Smartypants can send their ideas in to


Congratulations to the loveable linguist, Professor David Crystal, whose new book, Spell It Out (Profile, £12.99), has overtaken Fifty Shades of Grey in the bestsellers charts. Profile puts this down to a series of appearances by the author on Radio 4's Today programme, Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show and BBC News Online, where Crystal explained why the government's new EBacc exam sounds so much like an infectious disease. "Maybe I should have called the book Fifty Shades of Grey, or is it Gray?: The Singular Story of English Spelling", ponders Crystal.


Lots of people were pleased to see the popular author Robert Macfarlane on the shortlist for the Samuel Johnson Prize with The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot (Hamish Hamilton, £20). None more than Lynne Hatwell (aka books blogger, Dovegreyreader), who introduced him at this year's Port Eliot Festival. "I said in front of an audience … that I would eat my walking boots if the book didn't win prizes," she says, "so I will be really pleased if it does."


Meanwhile, at next weekend's Manx Litfest (Thursday to Sunday) on the Isle of Man, a last-minute substitution has had to be made. The thriller writer RJ Ellory had to pull out at the eleventh hour after being caught out writing anonymous online reviews – raves of his own novels, and sniffy ones of those of his rival, Stuart MacBride. Fortunately, a suitable replacement has been found. Declining to comment on Mr Ellory's withdrawal, the festival director, John Quirk, told the news website, "Thanks to the efforts of [the Manx writer] Chris Ewan, we secured leading crime writer Stuart MacBride to step in at the last minute." Revenge is a dish best served in front of a paying audience, as every thriller writer knows.