Cover Stories: Carlos Ruiz Zafón; Mark Barty-King; PEN v Putin

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The Independent Culture

Carlos Ruiz Zafón was in London this week and, while he didn't win, that he was in contention for Author of the Year (given to Alan Bennett) at the British Book Awards offers encouragement to those who battle to publish fiction in translation. Zafón did get an award for 500,000 paperbacks of The Shadow of the Wind, which has sold over a million UK copies. The author, now living again in Barcelona, revealed he was finishing the first of a quartet of novels. Something to look forward to around 2008.

* The book trade was this week united in sadness at the death at 68 of Mark Barty-King, latterly chief executive of Transworld. With his film-star looks, he could have been a Hollywood dream, and he charmed many an author - not least Barbara Taylor Bradford, whose A Woman of Substance he bought. Unfailingly pleasant, he never set himself up as some book-trade sage, preferring to get on with publishing good books. He was responsible for that most unlikely mega-seller, A Brief History of Time. While Stephen Hawking battles on, his publisher succumbed to a rare auto-immune disorder. Barty-King was 20 when he was awarded an MC for service in the Far East. In civilian life, he was no less brave and will be much missed.

* It's back to the future in Russia. President Putin's crackdown on NGOs is threatening PEN, whose assets have been frozen amid allegations of failure to pay land tax. PEN officers have papers that refute the charge. Michael Frayn, Vice President of International PEN, urges us to write letters to Putin in support of Russian PEN, stressing that its members represent "one of the world's great literatures".