Cover Stories: Nikita Lalwani; Biography of Bacon; recession ready

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The Independent Culture

* Nikita Lalwani's debut Gifted has been in the running for a number of prizes since its publication last year, among them the Man Booker and the Costa. Last night 35-year-old Lalwani, who was born in Rajasthan and grew up in Cardiff, picked up the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize, the first such award, in memory of the late agent. Judges Cristina Odone, Geordie Grieg and chair Penny Vincenzi, whose career Elliott launched, praised its "extraordinary range; it is touching, tender, funny and at the same time truly compelling" – qualities which the Independent's critic also spotted. Elliott would be well satisfied with the outcome.

* Annalyn Swan and Mark Stevens, the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of De Kooning: An American Master, are to write a major biography of Francis Bacon - due for a blockbuster show this autumn. HarperCollins has bought rights after a heated auction. The pair has interviewed the artist's surviving sister and will research in France and Morocco, as well as London. Bacon rarely discussed his art; this book will draw on material discovered since his death to bring both the artist and the work to life.

* Already there are signs of publishers battening down the hatches for the recession. The Orion Group, one of Britain's most successful, is making a half-dozen staff redundant, including publishing director Ian Marshall, whose choice of celebrity titles, including memoirs by Lesley Ash and Charlotte Church, appears to have been unwise. This time last year, Weidenfeld also rationalised staff and list. On the other hand, Viking has seen fit to add an editorial director: Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, will join later this summer. His brief is "to find and publish brilliantly books with real impact, wide appeal and of great quality" – surely, everyone else's brief, too.

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