Cover Stories: Avon books; Patti Boyd; Caine Prize

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The Independent Culture

Having decided to drop the "Collins" portion of the name from its general books, HarperCollins has announced a new paperback list. Avon books will be "stylishly packaged popular fiction aimed at the fast-growing mass-market channels": in other words, supermarkets. Its head will be Caroline Ridding, queen of Tesco book sales until she was poached. Yet Avon - which Peter Mayer made into a mass-market force in the US - is synonymous here with make-up. And by pitching it at supermarkets, "Harper" is creating a ghetto into which agents will not wish to see authors consigned. Avon calling? Not today, thank you.

Patti Boyd, former Mary Quant model and muse to George Harrison and Eric Clapton, both of whom she married and divorced, is writing her memoirs - with help from Penny Junor. The book was bought by Headline's Val Hudson after an auction run by Caroline Michel of William Morris. Clapton is preparing his own life story for Harper, which is rumoured to have paid £4m for the project.

In just seven years, the Caine Prize for African Writing - focusing on short fiction and named in honour of the late Booker chair, Sir Michael Caine - has become a nursery for future stars. Winners and finalists have included Leila Aboulela, Helon Habila, Chimamanda Adichie and Segun Afolabi, who all now grace Britain's best fiction lists. On Monday the prize was given again in Oxford, under the fan-vault of the Bodleian Library. It went to Mary Watson from South Africa for her story "Jungfrau". So look out for great things from her soon.

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