Cover Stories: Dame Helen Mirren; Caroline Gascoigne; Craig Brown

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The Independent Culture

*As The Queen opens, Weidenfeld publisher Alan Samson is finishing his deal for a scrapbook celebration of the life of its star, Dame Helen Mirren, just garlanded at the Venice film festival. It's not an autobiography: Dame Helen says she will never write one, so fleet-footed Samson spotted an opportunity. He suggested as a template a similar volume by another biographical refusenik, Dame Judi Dench (left). Mirren loved the idea, for she has "literally, a trunk" of cuttings and photos. The actress, who will write about her Leigh-on-Sea childhood and Russian family, does not require a ghost and expects to complete in time for publication next summer.

*Poacher-turned-gamekeeper stories don't come better than this. Caroline Gascoigne, literary editor of The Sunday Times, is to take over the departing Sue Freestone's role as publishing director of Hutchinson. She will inherit a Random House list packed with top sellers (eg Stephen Fry, Robert Harris, Douglas Kennedy) who thrived under Freestone's TLC. Such career leaps can be fraught with risks, but maybe a good journalist should feel confident about steering an imprint that manages to be intelligently popular, not cheaply populist.

*Satirist Craig Brown has a timely volume out in a couple of weeks: The Tony Years (Ebury Press) promises to dissect the "vulnerable underbellies" of the icons of the Blair years. Jeremy Clarkson, Sharon Osbourne, Trinny and Susannah, plus a host of politicians, including Blair, are among the targets in a book that will distil the essence of life under not-so-New Labour. Never has that glad, confident May morning seemed so far away.