Cover stories: Booker panel, Graham Swift, Joan Collins, Douglas Adams

Click to follow

Time for the Fantasy Fiction League? The comedian David Baddiel joins his former Cambridge tutor Lisa Jardine on the judging panel for this year's Booker. Also gathered under the chair of Professor Jardine are the novelists Salley Vickers (see above) and Russell Celyn Jones, and Erica Wagner of The Times. Booker plc's owner, Iceland (now renamed "The Big Food Group"), is withdrawing from the prize sponsorship, but at a glacier's pace. Some little bookish birds suggest that ample replacement sponsorship from a blue-chip institution is already more or less agreed, but that Iceland is holding up the public transfer – perhaps because it realises how daft it was to let the Booker go.

* A few years back, Martin Amis sold himself to the highest bidder among publishers. But his brief defection to HarperCollins turned out to be a way of getting his regular house, Jonathan Cape, to cough up the sort of money suited to his new status as literary superstar. Amis's conduct has an echo this spring with Graham Swift. Though he hasn't changed agents (remaining with the fleet-footed, silver-tongued Caradoc King of A P Watt), the Booker-winner for Last Orders is, it seems, asking for more money than Picador – where he is edited by the deep and dedicated Peter Straus – is prepared to spend. Unlike Amis, he has also put his backlist on the market, and would thus deprive Picador of one of its stars. Select editors are assessing Swift's latest manuscript before making their sealed bids.

* Flushed with her latest literary success – her new novel, Star Quality, has apparently sold 28,000 copies – Joan Collins has embarked on a new magnum opus. This time it's a beauty-and-exercise book, Joan's Way, for which the mild-mannered Jeremy Robson of Robson Books has paid more money than he's ever paid for anything. Sister Jackie will doubtless be dipping her pen in acid for a congratulatory missive.

* MacMillan will shortly publish The Salmon of Doubt, the novel Douglas Adams left unfinished at his death. Now comes news of an authorised biography by former publisher Nick Webb, the man who put Adams into print when, having enjoyed The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy on radio, he bought it for Pan. The two remained friends and, to the last, met for lunch. They shared a passion for science and a clothes size – Webb still dresses in bespoke jackets and suits cast off by Adams after a diet.

Comments