Cover Stories: Hamish Hamilton; Dannie Abse; Caroline Michel's income; the generosity of Nikita Lalwani

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The Independent Culture

* As old Commonwealth ties mean less and less and publishers in countries once coloured red on the map seek more autonomy, how curious that Penguin should now launch Hamish Hamilton in Canada.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the imprint has just launched an online literary magazine, available "direct to subscriber's inboxes as a beautiful, printable PDF". Five Dials, as it will be called, will contain "new writing, artwork and dispatches from the world of words", with unpublished writing by Iain Sinclair, a story from Hari Kunzru and "the first of Alain de Botton's regular agony columns" in issue one, from

* Dannie Abse, poet and polymath, won the £10,000 Wales Book of the Year award this week for his poignant memoir The Presence (Hutchinson). Described in these pages as "supremely fresh and vital... matching profound emotion with witty observation", it is both a portrait of a marriage and a meditation on loss and grief following the death of his wife in a car accident. The judges hailed Abse - a doctor with books on medicine, as well as poetry, plays and fiction to his name - as being "up there at the top of the Welsh tree".

* While the 76 agents at United Agents talk frankly about the joys of Soho's cheap eats and the need to keep their expenses down, it's a relief to know that bitter rival PFD's chief executive Caroline Michel need have no such worries. Accounts reveal that she earned £72,000 during her first four months at the troubled agency. I wonder if new owner Andrew Neil feels she needs a pay rise?

* How generous of Nikita Lalwani to donate her £10,000 winnings from the first Desmond Elliott Prize to Liberty, and how nice to know that her novel, Gifted, has been sold in almost 20 countries, with film rights now bought by Christine Langan, producer of The Queen.