Between the Covers 30/06/2013

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

Entries have been invited for the 2013 Costa Short Story Award, which will be presented alongside the main Costa Prize next January, but is judged separately. The prize is intriguing in that it is the best-known British literary award to judge its submissions completely anonymously. Judging books anonymously would certainly help to settle the ongoing debates about whether most book prizes favour particular types of authors or publishers, and whether a Women's Prize is really necessary. Unfortunately, published novels by well-known authors are near impossible to anonymise – even if a book were presented between blank covers, many of the judges will have, or should have, read it.

The Costa Short Story Award will be welcoming submissions from tomorrow until Friday 2 August on its website (costabookawards.com). Any writer over 18-years-old can submit a story, whether or not it has been published. It must be no longer than 4,000 words and written in English. A panel of judges will select a shortlist of six in November, and then the public will be invited to vote for their favourite.

Incidentally, last year's shortlist comprised five women and one man, and was won by Avril Joy for her story “Millie and Bird”.

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Jeffrey Archer (pictured) wears velvet slippers with golden crowns embroidered on the toes, and would be willing to pay to have more readers, according to a fascinating interview by the US news service Bloomberg. “[Money] doesn't mean a thing anymore,” he says. “[I'm] much more interested in being read. If you said to me, 'Jeffrey, I'm going to take away £1m for every million new readers,' I'd give you all my money.” His new book is called Best Kept Secret, and at a quid a reader, in this recession, we reckon he might be on to something.

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Which enterprising travel writer will be the first to rush out a guide to the top smog views in Singapore, and call it 50 Shades of Grey?

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If only all book launches could be like this …. The pre-launch party for Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor's autobiography was held at the Al Habtoor Royal Windsor Cup at the Guards Polo Club in Windsor Great Park last Sunday, and had more champagne and sightings of reigning monarchs (one) than any other book launch Between the Covers has ever attended. Mr Al Habtoor left his job with a United Arab Emirates construction firm in 1970 and now employs more than 40,000 people in construction, hotels, real-estate, education, publishing … and polo. The story of how he got from there to here will be published in September by Motivate Publishing, with a foreword by former US president Jimmy Carter. Asked about his own favourite biographies, Mr Al Habtoor told The IoS that he prefers to read about great, unique leaders, but he doesn't like love stories or crying stories. Woe betide the fellow guest at the launch who said to him: “I've read your book, and I loved the bit about the sandwich board man on Oxford Street about whom you write with great affection. You say you don't know what happened to him, well I can tell you that he's dead now ….”

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