Cover Stories: Alex Garland; Craig Russell; Michael Foot; Steve Voake

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The Independent Culture

Penguin has lost one of its great finds to Faber & Faber. Alex Garland, whose debut The Beach (1996) established him as one of fiction's hippest young things, has signed with Faber for a novella with illustrations by his father, the cartoonist Nicholas Garland. The Coma is described as "a psychological mystery", written in "intensely visual language", and will be published to great fanfare next autumn. Garland's second novel, also published by Penguin, was The Tesseract, but five years have since elapsed, leading to fears that Garland had writer's block. In fact, he has recently written the screenplay for 28 Days Later, a big box-office hit in the US. That was what brought him to Faber, one of a tiny handful of houses still with a film and drama list, and to editor Walter Donohue, who will work with Garland on The Coma.

* There must be something in the Fife water supply. How else to account for the fact that the area has produced three bestselling crime writers - Val McDermid, Ian Rankin and Iain Banks? Now a fourth seems set to emerge. Craig Russell is a former police inspector who will make his debut with Hutchinson next year. Blood Eagle, first of a series, is set in Hamburg and will introduce Hauptkommissar Jan Fabel. Agent Carole Blake was gratified by the six-figure, three-book deal signed ahead of this week's Frankfurt Book Fair.

* At 90, Michael Foot is still a Labour firebrand - last week he was castigating the PM at a conference fringe meeting for going to war. Now he has agreed that Kenneth O Morgan, academic and Labour peer, should write his life for HarperCollins. The author of biographies of Keir Hardie, Lloyd George and James Callaghan, Morgan will have access to all Foot's papers and will examine his career as a crusading journalist as well as a politician.

* Ed Jaspers, a 24-year-old trainee agent at Conville & Walsh, has just conducted his first - and "furiously fought" - auction for The Dream Walker's Child, a children's novel by Steve Voake, a 40-year-old headmaster from the West Country. Jaspers found the novel on the slush pile, and he worked with Voake for six months, sending out the manuscript ahead of Frankfurt. Faber tabled the winning bid, signing for two books, both for eight-to-12s. The book is the story of a boy called Sam, "kidnapped into an alternative universe". The agent looks certain to return from Frankfurt with a basket of deals, possibly including screen rights.

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