Cover Stories: Gordon Wise, Harpercollins

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The Independent Culture

One of the more bizarre appointments of recent times is that of Gordon Wise as publishing director of John Murray, once home to Byron and these days to such titans as Patrick Leigh Fermor and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. Wise has lately presided over the media division at Pan Macmillan, where his contributions have included memoirs by Bruce Forsyth, Ulrika Jonsson and Basil Brush. Roland Philipps, appointed MD of Murray in the wake of Hodder Headline's takeover last year, has charged Wise with putting the publisher "in a modern context, where subject and saleability cross". However, Brucie and Ulrika turned out to be rather less than saleable.

* Harpercollins enjoyed a cosy night at the BBC Four Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction. T J Binyon, author of the winning, magisterial biography of Pushkin, is married to the company's publicity director, Helen Ellis, who in her time has escorted Lady Thatcher and John Major around the bookshops - not to mention the equally formidable Barbara Taylor Bradford. The two met some years back but married recently, dividing their time between London and Oxford, where Binyon is a senior fellow at Wadham College. Close runner-up in the Johnson stakes was a another HarperCollins author: Aminatta Forna, with her remarkable memoir of her executed father and the troubled history of Sierra Leone, The Devil that Danced on the Water.

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