Between the Covers 28/04/2013

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

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The Independent Culture

There were just 15 days between the death of Baroness Thatcher and the first instalment of Charles Moore's authorised biography being launched. Moore, former editor of The Daily Telegraph, was commissioned to write it in 1997 but promised not to print it until after her death. Nonetheless, publishers at Allen Lane thought that they would have a little longer. "We had thought the funeral would have been a few days later to give us more time," said one of the production team, still wiping the sweat from her brow. That the launch fell on 23 April, St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday, was also an accident. This is the first of two instalments. And will the next volume, covering the post-Falklands era, be out in time for Christmas? The Allen Lane staffer blanched. "Next year, I hope."


Between the Covers is supportive of critics who are willing to put their money where their mouths are, so it is with a sense of great expectation that we announce the latest venture from the beer reviewer Pete Brown. The author of books including Hops and Glory: One Man's Search for the Beer that Built the British Empire and the recent Shakespeare's Local: Six Centuries of History Seen Through One Extraordinary Pub is about to launch a beer of his own called Dissolution – an abbey-style Belgian dubbel. The enterprise sees Brains brewery collaborate with several beer writers to produce a range of beers. "I've not tasted it yet but the brewer has and he says it's absolutely amazing," Brown tells the IoS, "so I'm really looking forward to having a go on it." So are we.


The Astronomer Royal Martin Rees is to chair a "dream team" of judges for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize, including Mary Beard, Shami Chakrabarti, Peter Hennessy, and the writer and reviewer James McConnachie. "I'm delighted and honoured to be chairing such a distinguished panel," says Rees. Last week he told The Independent on Sunday that by the end of the 21st century tiny flotillas of robotic space exploration craft will map the Solar System. In the meantime, however, he is "looking forward to reading some brilliant books".


Piffle to those who say that children's education is being dumbed down. This spring sees the launch of a collection of "BabyLit" from Gibbs Smith publishing which includes a numbers book for babies and toddlers based on Pride and Prejudice, a weather primer that uses Wuthering Heights, counting books based on Dracula, Jane Eyre and Romeo and Juliet, a colours picture book of Alice in Wonderland (white rabbit; black shoes; purple bottle …) and a book about opposites based on Sense and Sensibility (Norland Park is BIG whereas Barton Cottage is LITTLE, and so on). Each hardback book costs £5.99 and is "capable of withstanding the robust teeth" of toddlers and children. Gibbs Smith also sells beautiful canvas book bags showing literary images. Although canvas book bags are Between the Covers' obsession, no bags changed hands during the pitching and research of this story. Only books. Which are also very nice.