Cover Stories: McCain on decisions; Murakami on sport; Binchy on writing; new Les Misérables translation

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The Independent Culture

With Barack Obama already a UK bestseller, John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, now takes a tilt at our charts. Hard Call: Courageous Decisions by Inspiring People will be published next month by Gibson Square, hot on the heels of the author's visit to No 10. Hard Call takes a leaf from Gordon Brown's book Courage, which in turn nodded to Churchill's Great Contemporaries and Kennedy's Profiles in Courage, an opus that JFK apparently had little to do with but which helped buff his image as an intellectual as well as brave politician. Examining key moments from the lives of figures from presidents to baseball players, McCain looks at difficult decisions made under pressure.

* Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, his best-selling novel to date, has sold four million in Japan alone. In August, Harvill Secker will publish his latest book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, about the influence of sport on his life and work. An added treat for Murakami aficionados is a diary, adorned by fragments from his novels.

* The unstoppable Maeve Binchy, who once announced her retirement only to turn out several more bestsellers, is poised to publish a must-read for aspiring writers. The Maeve Binchy Writers' Club comprises 20 letters offering writing tips and advice on how to approach agents and publishers. Inspired by a course she gave at the National College of Ireland, it covers not just romantic fiction but sagas and thrillers, comedy, journalism, radio and stage. Orion will publish it on May Day.

* Some 51 million have seen Les Misérables on stage worldwide. Now, Victor Hugo's 1862 novel will be republished in a new translation by Julie Rose, introduced by Adam Thirlwell. Vintage hope it will replicate the success of War and Peace, a new translation of which marked its move into new editions of the classics of fiction.

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