Cover Stories: Paul Merton, Joanne Harris, Rosemary Davidson, Isabel Losada

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*Paul Merton, star of Have I Got News for You and Room 101, has signed up with Random House for a serious book on comedy. He'll explore not the stand-up variety, but silent comedy and, with it, the early days of Hollywood. Publisher Nigel Wilcockson, who defected recently from Penguin, believes Merton will bring "a comedian's insight to bear on the art of making people laugh".

*Joanne Harris's wittily subversive heroine from Chocolat, Vianne Rocher, will return next May - this time in Montmartre - in a new Doubleday novel, The Lollipop Shoes. The Barnsley bestseller has signed a new deal with Transworld. In 2007 Harris, whom MD Larry Finlay calls "one of the most precious jewels in the Transworld crown", will also be publishing a young-adult fantasy novel, Runemarks.

*With Conn and Hal Iggulden's The Dangerous Book for Boys selling so well, and likely to continue to do so through to Christmas, a girls' equivalent was inevitable. Bloomsbury editor Rosemary Davidson, presumably burning midnight oil after lights-out in the dorm, will be providing it, and Viking hopes to publish next summer. The book will hark back to simpler times, when girls played cat's cradle and made coconut ice with grannies rather than worrying about pop sensations and wearing thongs.

*To have an author visit is always a thrill for reading groups, but writer Isabel Losada was equally chuffed to find the tables turned and have a reading group visit her... all the way from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The author of The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment was surprised to hear that members of the group were flying in for the launch of 100 Reasons to Be Glad at Waterstone's Notting Hill. "I'm not even J K Rowling or Dan Brown," exclaimed a flabbergasted Losada.