Cover Stories: Bill Clinton, Boris Johnson, Foyles, Tolkien

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The Independent Culture

As predicted here last week, Bill Clinton has now signed a deal with Random House in the US and UK for his memoirs. Sonny Mehta, the British expat head of Knopf, will be editing the ex-Pres, having paid a rumoured $8-10m. Clinton will be writing the book himself – as befits a man who, having rewritten his first State of the Union Address, was forced to busk it because the wrong version was on the teleprompt and, without his specs, he was unable to read the scribbled draft. He promises complete candour, though it's not clear how candid he can be about Ms L. Publication is set for autumn 2003, a little over six months after Hillary's opus. There was a scramble for UK rights, and negotiations went late into the night. Random House UK won out, and Gail Rebuck, so charmed by Bill at Hay, is surely delighted.

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In Britain, the memoirs of a much newer pol have been announced. Boris Johnson, the Spectator-editing Tory member for Henley, kept a campaign diary of his election fight in Michael Heseltine's old seat, and will publish it in October via HarperCollins – which appears not to have severed its links with Tory Central Office. Friends, Voters, Countrymen will look at the democratic process, and ask if fêtes, teas and hustings are still the best way to make political decisions.

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Good to see Foyles, a sort of shopping village of specialist bookshops, setting out its stall as a destination in its own right. Christina is doubtless spinning in her grave to think of free wine and nibbles being given away at meet-the-author evenings (next Tuesday at 7pm it's Iain M Banks), and would have a view on this week's gathering in aid of 40 years of Amnesty International. Christina – who believed that staff should speak only when spoken to – would surely not be pleased to hear nephew Bill Samuel ask what better place there could be to celebrate freedom of speech than a bookshop.

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With Tolkien fans holding their breath for the big-screen Lord of the Rings, a new state-of-the-art website has been launched for them: www.tolkien.co.uk. The design is based on Tolkien's own drawings and will feature rare interviews as well as a comprehensive introduction to the man and his work.

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