Cover Stories: Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Whitbread prize; paperback battle; Ink

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The Independent Culture

Last Saturday, Sanjeev Bhaskar was The Big Read advocate for The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one of the 21 novels in contention for the BBC viewers' accolade. The novel by the late Douglas Adams is perhaps not the likeliest winner, but there's great news for its legions of fans. Agent Ed Victor, who has been trying to secure a film deal since 1983, has finally got the green light from Disney. Carey Kirkpatrick, who wrote Chicken Run, is already at work on the screenplay and two Brits, Nick Goldsmith and Garth Jennings, will direct. As to who will play Arthur Dent - well, Adams himself always wanted Hugh Grant.

* Professor John Carey, although chair of the judges, failed to secure a Man Booker shortlist place for Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which he loved. Haddon's lauded début about a troubled kid with Asperger's does, however, feature on the Whitbread Novel Award shortlist, while the Booker winner - DBC's Pierre's Vernon God Little - appears among First Novel finalists. So might there be a run-off between this pair of dysfunctional teens for the overall Book of the Year title in January? Only the Whitbread juries will know: they choose both the shortlists and category winners at the same time.

* Battle lines are being drawn for a clash between Vintage, the Random House paperback list headed until February by Caroline Michel, and the new Perennial imprint at HarperCollins - over which Michel now presides. Vintage, now run by Rachel Cugnoni, is giving its backlist a makeover and introducing a range of Crucial Classics and Sex Classics at £3.99. Michel is adding a section entitled PS to the back of Perennials: a magazine-style feature with an author interview, suggestions for further reading, and what the DfE would call "context". First fruits of the initiative include Katie Hickman's Courtesans and Anne-Marie MacDonald's As the Crow Flies.

* This month sees the launch of a new magazine aimed at readers and writers. Ink will be published by Infinity and is "aimed at book lovers, with a section for aspiring writers". Editor Jeff Hudson, himself the author of four volumes of popular biography, promises that Ink will do for books what Q did for music and Empire for films. The £3.50 monthly will be available from newsagents.