Cover Stories: Alan Clark's biographer; Michael Crichton's long-awaited novel; short story competition

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The Independent Culture

John Hurt's TV role as the libidinous Alan Clark boosted sales of the diary trilogy to well over 500,000.

John Hurt's TV role as the libidinous Alan Clark boosted sales of the diary trilogy to well over 500,000. Now it has been announced that Ion Trewin - the Weidenfeld editor-in-chief who worked with Clark on the first volume of diaries and prepared the second and third - has been appointed as the late MP's biographer. Trewin, a Times journalist before he became a publisher, had not thought of putting himself forward for the task; it was Clark's widow, Jane, who suggested he might consider it. Clark kept everything, and Trewin hopes to resolve a few mysteries during his two-year trawl at Saltwood Castle. Such as: what, exactly, was Clark doing in Moscow in the mid-Fifties?

* The patience of Michael Crichton fans is tested by the long (by today's standards) wait between his books. Crichton sticks to his guns with a novel every other year. Thus, on 7 December, two years almost to the day since Prey, HarperCollins in the US and UK will publish State of Fear. The first printing will run to two million.

* A couple of years back, the short story was getting short shrift: it was difficult to package and even more difficult to sell. Then Booktrust and its Scottish counterpart engaged in the Short Story Campaign to preserve an endangered species. Several anthologies have been published with no little success, while BBC TV's End of Story competition attracted close to 20,000 entries. Now comes the first ever short-story festival, Small Wonder, to be held at Charleston, Sussex, country seat of the Bloomsbury Group, on 10-12 September. A stellar cast of writers, among them Yann Martel, William Trevor, Marina Warner, Hanif Kureishi and Alexei Sayle, will take part. For further information: info@charleston.org.uk

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