Cover Stories: Celebrity books; Catherine O'Flynn; Booked Up scheme; PFD vs United Agents

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The Independent Culture

* If the bookshop Christmas belonged to anyone it was Russell Brand with My Booky Wook and, given the fight he had with Hodder to keep the title, won't he be feeling smug! But the consensus is that celebrity has not worked and chief execs will say, again, that they will no longer pay big money for it. Still, Julie Walters (Weidenfeld, 2m) is already on the schedule for next Christmas.

* Bookish sales shoppers should congratulate former mall worker Catherine O'Flynn, profiled in these pages before Christmas: she has won the Costa First Novel Award for What Was Lost (from Birmingham's small but formidable Tindal Street Press). She joins AL Kennedy, victor in the novel category, poet Jean Sprackland, children's author Ann Kelley and Stalin biographer Simon Sebag Montefiore in the battle for the overall Costa Book of the Year, decided on 22 January by a panel chaired by Joanna Trollope.

* By Christmas, the Booked Up scheme, backed by 2.78m of government cash, had put a free book into the hands of every English 11-year-old. Wendy Cooling, also midwife to the Bookstart and Booktime programmes, oversaw its launch. Another tireless heroine of children's reading, Jacqueline Wilson, beat JK Rowling to a Damehood in the New Year Honours list. Readers with more strictly adult tastes will applaud Hanif Kureishi's CBE: proof that the awkward squad can sometimes get the nod.

* The year closed with no happy ending in sight to the saga of PFD vs United Agents. Of the refuseniks who raised fingers to PFD's so-called turnaround king David Buchler, only Pat Kavanagh, aka Mrs Julian Barnes, remains, working her notice. But well over 50 authors have left to join UA, so whoever remains must now build new careers. Time will tell, but time is another thing PFD doesn't have.