Cover Stories: Costa Book Awards; Death of a Dissident; Foodie Competition

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The Independent Culture

*The category winners for the inaugural Costa Book Awards (previously sponsored by the coffee chain's parent, Whitbread) proved a triumph for independent publishers. Bloomsbury, whose William Boyd won the Novel category with Restless, is scarcely your average independent. But for Atlantic, with Brian Thompson's Keeping Mum (Biography), Quercus, with Stef Penney's (left) The Tenderness of Wolves (First Novel), and Seren with John Haynes's Letter to Patience (Poetry) the list is a vindication. Readers who'd like to sample them before the Book of the Year is chosen on 7 February should pop along to any Costa branch, where for £1 The Finalists offers a chapter from each. Proceeds go to charity.

*Hot on the heels of Gibson Square's republication of the late Alexander Litvinenko's book, Simon & Schuster has a biography of the murdered ex-spy by his widow, Marina, and his fellow dissident, Alex Goldfarb. Death of a Dissident, published in May and agented by Ed Victor, will cover Litvinenko's career, and attempts to expose the KGB/FSB's dirty tricks. Meanwhile, A Russian Diary, the book that investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was completing when she was killed in her Moscow block last October, is due from Harvill Secker in April, with a foreword by Jon Snow.

*Those who'd like to be the next Nigel or Nigella can win a £20,000 contract in a competition sponsored by Fourth Estate and Waitrose Food Illustrated. Aspirant foodie writers need to submit 1,500 "engaging and original" words. The judges include Nigel Slater and WFI editor William Sitwell, together with Claire Paterson and Tif Loehnis from agency Janklow & Nesbit, and Louise Haines, Slater's editor at Fourth Estate. Closing date is 1 March.