Cover Stories: Marie Helvin; Decibel Penguin Prize

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The Independent Culture

*After many of the celebrity books piled high and cut deep in the run-up to Christmas still failed to sell, you might think that publishers might have made a resolution to buy fewer such titles. But Weidenfeld has already signed Marie Helvin, "one of the most beautiful women of her generation". It's true: La Helvin does possess a beauty and grace that many of today's so-called supermodels can only dream of. And it's also true that Helvin was (and is), in the 1960s sense, one of the beautiful people, whose address book has included Sartre and De Beauvoir, Warhol, Fellini, as well, of course, as Mick Jagger and Jack Nicholson. She was married to photographer David Bailey, and is now settled with Mark Shand, brother-in-law of Prince Charles. Her autobiography, due this autumn, was handled by Ed Victor's agency. Which makes one thing certain: Helvin won't have come cheap.

*The Arts Council has found itself impaled on the spikes of political correctness. The Commission for Racial Equality complained to it about the frame of reference of the Decibel Penguin Prize, part of a wider ACE initiative to encourage diversity in publishing, which has been won by Hari Kunzru and Diana Evans. It had been open to writers of "Asian, African or Caribbean background". After discussions, from 2007 entries will be welcomed too from Europeans who have recently entered Britain. Indeed, this year's theme is the experience of immigration, told as non-fiction. No doubt good writing will be uncovered, but the original goal of providing more books for a section of the country that many publishers have largely disenfranchised will not be met.

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