Cover Stories: New novels; Ben Okri; Rebus

The Literator
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* We're only just into February, and already the big guns are promising new novels for the autumn. J M Coetzee, who has twice won the Man Booker as well as the Nobel, has delivered his latest to Harvill Secker. Diary of a Bad Year is narrated by a 72-year-old Australian writer invited to contribute to a book entitled Strong Opinions. Thus, Coetzee is able to discourse on al-Qaeda, anarchism, modern democracy, civil liberties, the war on terror and Guantanamo Bay. His publisher, Geoff Mulligan, believes the novel is "an utterly contemporary work of fiction from one our greatest writers and deepest thinkers".

* Meanwhile, Ben Okri, who won the Man Booker with The Famished Road, has delivered his latest opus. Starbrook, five years in the writing, is "a meditation on slavery, on freedom, on dreaming and on beauty", "a fabulous, poetic novel" that will mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery. Interestingly, its August publication will not be under Okri's usual Cape imprimatur but that of Rider, a sister imprint at Random House most readily associated with mind, body, spirit publishing.

* This year marks the 20th anniversary of Ian Rankin's first Rebus novel, an occasion that will be marked by a collectors' edition of Knots and Crosses, in which the detective made his debut. Fifty manuscript pages rejected by the book's first editor, will be included as an appendix, along with four pages of notes and doodles. The March reissue will mark a year-long celebration of the Scotsman, and bookshop promotions will include special edition beer and whisky.