Cover stories: Douglas Adams, Robert Meeropol, William Hague, Nigel Hawthorne

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The Independent Culture

Last week came news that spring would bring a posthumous Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt. Now comes news that MJ Simpson – known to aficionados as the man behind SFX, the science-fiction monthly, and editor of Mostly Harmless, the official Hitch-hiker's Guide magazine – is at work on a biography of the author. Hodder & Stoughton proclaims that the book, due in spring 2003, will "tell the life story of one of the most influential thinkers of the late 20th century." Simpson interviewed Adams many times and boasts an "unparalleled knowledge of his subject".

With the US in the grip of a paranoia not seen since the days of Senator McCarthy comes news that Robert Meeropol – the younger son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were sent to the electric chair in 1953 on charges of spying – is to write a memoir. In Revenge, publication of which will mark the 50th anniversary of their death next June, Meeropol will reflect on his orphaned life, his own political activism and his role as parent. The Rosenberg case was the inspiration for The Book of Daniel by EL Doctorow, some 20 years back.

William Hague has wisely resisted blandishments from publishers seeking his memoirs and has instead signed with HarperCollins for a biography of Pitt the Younger, who became PM at 24. There has been no new biography for many a year and no popular biography ever; much of what we know of him probably comes from Alan Bennett's play and film The Madness of King George. The hope is that Hague, an old man in comparison, will present a tie-in TV series. Naturally, the project was handled by Michael Sissons, the countryside-loving head of the agents PFD, whose other political clients include Heath, Heseltine and Jenkins.

And speaking of George III, it seems that Sir Nigel Hawthorne, whose portrayal of the king moved Princess Margaret to enquire whether the condition was hereditary, posted off the final chapters of his autobiography just a few days before his death. Hodder & Stoughton will now publish the book, Straight Face, in April.

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