Between The Covers: 26/02/2012

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

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The Independent Culture

* A rare insight into the marriage of the esteemed biographers Claire Tomalin and Michael Frayn appears in the new edition of The Royal Society of Literature Review, published tomorrow. In it is a dialogue between Tomalin and the writer Victoria Glendinning, discussing the biographer's art:

CT: "It's like being married to someone."

VG: "It's very like being married to someone."

CT: "I was once talking at a festival, and I said exactly that: 'There are days when you love them and days when you hate them' – and Michael was sitting at the back of the hall, and I saw people turning round to see how he was reacting to this. But it's true."

VG: "When I was writing about Leonard Woolf, my husband, Kevin, would say darkly to people – thinking of Princess Diana – 'There are three people in this marriage.'"

CT: "Well, Michael puts up with it, but it is a problem: one is removed from ordinary life, one is living in another world, and it can go on for a very long time."

They say that it's a brave person who marries a novelist; it seems that the same is true of biographers, too.

* Congratulations to The Independent on Sunday's top reviewer Doug Johnstone, whose fourth novel, Hit and Run, is published on Thursday by Faber and Faber. It opens with trainee crime reporter Billy Blackmore hitting and killing a man while driving drunk; the man turns out to be Edinburgh's most notorious crime lord. There is also quite a pivotal role for the crime lord's dog, Rebus, who is so named because the dead man was a fan of the TV adaptations of Ian Rankin's books starring the famous Edinburgh detective (played first by John Hannah, and later Ken Stott). "It's just a wee in joke with Ian," Doug tells us.

* Rankin has clearly read the book already, because last week he tweeted at Johnstone, "the victim in yr new book was a fan of mine, so I'm sad now ...." "Erm yeah," replied Johnstone, "hope you liked Rebus the dog. Just a bit of fun. In a violent, nasty kinda way." Rankin got his own back for the fictional death of a fictional Rebus fan, however. The following day, he tweeted a link to an STV story about a real-life police sniffer dog called Rebus who caught a teenager with £100,000 of heroin. "Not to be sniffed at," Rankin pointed out. "I'm quite annoyed there's a police dog called Rebus in real life," says Johnstone.

* At the age of 57, Miffy the bunny is to move into the digital age with a new app for iPad based on the story Miffy's Garden. Children can help Miffy to rake the soil, sow seeds, and water the garden using apparently simple (to three-year-olds, maybe) stroke, swipe and tap actions. Then they can harvest Miffy's carrots. Miffy was born on a rainy seaside holiday in 1955, when, to entertain his little boy, the Dutch graphic designer Dick Bruna drew a rabbit that kept appearing in the garden of his holiday home. Bruna is now 84, still works in his studio in Utrecht, and is the most borrowed author from Dutch libraries, while Miffy has sold more than 85 million books in more than 50 languages, and is the star of the Dick Bruna Huis museum in Utrecht. However, in all of her incarnations, nobody has ever done the voices of the giraffes in Miffy at the Zoo better than Between the Covers's mum. The app costs £2.99 from the iTunes store, and is available in English or Dutch.

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