Cover Stories: By Jack Rosenthal; the return of the killer-biographer; Prizes for Bryson and Funder

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The Independent Culture

Jack Rosenthal's death has deprived us of a singular talent. His plays, perfect miniatures, came at life from the obliquest of angles. So it's no surprise to learn that his memoirs will offer an unusual take on his life. By Jack Rosenthal casts his story in seven acts, one for each decade.

Jack Rosenthal's death has deprived us of a singular talent. His plays, perfect miniatures, came at life from the obliquest of angles. So it's no surprise to learn that his memoirs will offer an unusual take on his life. By Jack Rosenthal casts his story in seven acts, one for each decade. It was written at the gentle persuasion of Jeremy Robson, the publisher to whom Rosenthal's wife, Maureen Lipman, has stayed loyal through a string of bestsellers. With the curtain brought down, it's up to her to write the closing scenes. Publication will be later this year or early next.

It's been a while since we heard from killer-biographer Kitty Kelley, whose The Royals no British publisher dared touch. Even UK sales via Amazon were blocked. Ms K is an acquired taste, but she's also a skilful writer, leaving no stone unturned - or no turn unstoned - yet staying on the right side of libel laws. And anyone desperate to see a new "JFK" in the White House will welcome the September publication of her The Family: the real story of the Bush dynasty. Her publisher, Bantam Press, is promising that "she'll tell it like it is. The truth doesn't need embellishment."

Rather like science itself, this week's double dose of major non-fiction prizes became a joint tale of the broad picture and the microscopic detail. Bill Bryson took the Aventis science-writing prize for his universe-spanning A Short History of Nearly Everything but lost out in the Samuel Johnson prize to Anna Funder's minute dissection of East German lives, Stasiland. Until now, the Johnson cheque for £30,000 has gone to doorstop history and biography; this year, the judges wanted to show that small can be beautiful.

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