Cover Stories: Edna O'Brien; Waterstone's; Hunter S Thompson

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The Independent Culture

It's been a few years since we heard from Edna O'Brien, but this autumn Weidenfeld will publish The Light of Evening, billed as a return to the world of her debut, The Country Girls. Back in 1960, it caused a furore - its graphic (for the time) sexual content led to its banning in Ireland. Her new novel, which has been "gestating" for years, pivots once again on the mother-daughter relationship. It draws on her mother's early history as an American immigrant working as a servant in Brooklyn before returning to Ireland.

* The year has got off to a tumultuous start for Waterstone's. First marketing boss Lesley Miles left, then Alan Giles - CEO of parent group HMV - fell on his sword following poor results. On the books side, Giles and colleagues were panicked by the comeback of W H Smith, and slashed prices to gain market share. The tactic raises questions as to whether Waterstone's understands the value of its brand. Publishers are agreed that pursuing the Smith's customer is a pointless exercise. So too the chain's attempt to face down the supermarkets by taking over Ottakar's. If the current bid is blocked, or HMV changes its mind, Ottakar's will be easy prey for Smith's or some other retailer with cash. And Waterstone's itself would then be vulnerable.

When Hunter S Thompson blew his brains out last year, a 35-year partnership came to a dramatic close. Artist Ralph Steadman first met HST at the 1970 Kentucky Derby. They collaborated on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and then ... on the Campaign Trail. Steadman has now written an account of their relationship. "One legend seen through the eyes of another," is how Heinemann publisher Ravi Mirchandani puts it.