Between the Covers 29/04/2012

Of all the presents that the Queen is doubtless looking forward to when she celebrates her 60 years on the throne this summer, surely the best will be the special new Diamond Jubilee edition of Nicholas Allan's The Queen's Knickers.

Red Fox has re-released the popular children's book, first published in 2000, with a swish new jacket, and Allan has changed the colour of Her Majesty's hair from brown to grey. Allan once told Between the Covers how he met the Queen at her 2001 garden party for the books world, and told her that many children had made paper knickers to send to the palace after reading his story of a trunk full of royal "knickers for all occasions". "What fun for my ladies in waiting," she gamely replied. This new edition will hopefully bring the book to a whole new audience of knicker-making young monarchists. We can only imagine how thrilled the Queen will be.

***

AA Gill has been announced as one of the top stars at the Words in the Park literary festival, which takes place in the theatre of Opera Holland Park in west London from 18– 20 May. Mr Gill is not currently popular among TV historians, after writing a "TV review" which criticised the looks of their queen, Mary Beard. So will he be asking his fellow guests Jeremy Paxman and Andrew Marr if they looked in their mirrors before they dared to appear on the nation's tellies talking about Empire and Elizabeth II? Or will the Divine Women presenter Bettany Hughes, another speaker, punch him on his perfectly-formed nose? Can a war chariot fit through the gates of the park, we wonder? Hell hath no fury like historians scorned.

***

Great news for fans of Terry Pratchett, whose energy seems to have redoubled since he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2007. In June, the first five of his Discworld novels will be republished in new covers. Then comes the release of his new collaboration with the sci-fi author Stephen Baxter, The Long Earth: "1916: the Western Front. Private Percy Blakeney wakes up. He is lying on fresh spring grass. He can hear birdsong, and the wind in the leaves in the trees. Where have the mud, blood and blasted landscape of No Man's Land gone? 2015: Madison, Wisconsin. Cop Monica Jansson is exploring the burned-out home of a reclusive – some said mad, others dangerous – scientist, when she finds a curious gadget – a box containing some wiring, a three-way switch and a ... potato. It is the prototype of an invention that will change the way mankind views his world for ever." Perhaps even better, September sees the release of Dodger (Random House Children's Books, £18.99), a brand new Pratchett book inspired by Dickens's Artful Dodger. The Bookseller reveals that it is set in Victorian London, and features characters such as Dickens, Disraeli and Queen Victoria. "[Terry] has been particularly energetic and creative for the past year," said his publisher. You can't keep a good man down.

***

The success of EL James's Fifty Shades of Grey is good news for those nostalgic for good, old-fashioned smut: Ebury is to revive its imprint Black Lace. "The fact that women enjoy reading sexy books was hardly news to us here at Ebury", says a publisher, promising novels "even steamier than Fifty Shades of Grey".

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