Cover Stories: Maeve Binchy writes again; a royal biography from Gyles Brandreth

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The Independent Culture

Good news for Maeve Binchy's many fans: though she said she'd write no more novels (Quentins, her latest, was essentially a collection of stories), this summer brings one. Nights of Rain and Stars forsakes Ireland for Greece and takes its cue from Binchy's natural curiosity. What, she wondered, do all those single travellers get up to on their hols? The way Maeve tells it, it won't be much like Club 18-30.

* If one were considering an author to write "the most important royal biography of 2004", the name Gyles Brandreth wouldn't always spring to mind. Yet the former Tory MP, once famous for gracing TV sofas in a range of idiosyncratic knitwear, is writing Philip and Elizabeth: Portrait of a Marriage, which Century will publish this September. The author of such titles as Under the Jumper has "spent many hours with Prince Philip" in interviews, as well as with Queen and Prince together. If the couple had wanted a serious, insightful though still respectful biography, there's no shortage of suitable writers: Philip Ziegler, perhaps, or Antonia Fraser.