Cover Stories: Ottakar's; supporting independents; "hot" books; Patricia Cornwell

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The Independent Culture

Not very clever of The Guardian to launch an attack in the guise of a "consumer test" on chain booksellers and even more endangered independent colleagues by recommending Tesco online as the cheapest and "best" place to buy books - citing Alan Bennett's Untold Stories at just over half the cover price. But Bennett has recently exhorted us to support the independents. Supermarkets, real and virtual, cream off a few bestsellers and make publishers supply them at discounts that are ruinous to the book trade as a whole.

One of the few "hot" books at Frankfurt was a novel by "a Muslim Irvine Welsh" - Londonstani by the journalist Gautam Malkani. Set in Hounslow, it is described by Fourth Estate's Nick Pearson - who paid a six-figure sum for two books - as "the best debut novel I've read in a very, very long time". Its sale provided former Picador publisher Peter Straus, of Rogers, Coleridge and White, with his first major deal as an agent, and Fourth Estate with its first big buy in the post-Caroline Michel era.

A rare treat is in the offing for fans of Patricia Cornwell. Her 14th novel Predator is published next week by Time Warner, and the novelist makes a a rare UK appearance on 7 November at a Foyles event. It takes place at Congress House, in Great Russell Street, London, and tickets cost £7. Call 0870 420 2777.