Cover Stories: PFD Agency; Edinburgh International Book Festival; Alan Sillitoe

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The Independent Culture

So, as predicted here in April, Caroline Michel has metaphorically clambered into bed with Andrew Neil. This week he led a group of private City investors in a buy-out of the PFD agency from its owners, CSS Stellar. He has paid £4m because he believes in "the significance and value" of the backlist and "the talent and vision" of CEO Michel. Of course, CSS could have accepted the £4m management buy-out offer last year by Caroline Dawnay, Pat Kavanagh et al – the distinguished agents whose approach to CSS was rebuffed, leading them to set up the rival United Agents. It is believed that virtually all PFD's eminent authors have followed, and it is only a matter of time before they and UA open negotiations for their "significant and valuable" backlists. Having leached agents and talent, Michel is finding the rebuild a major challenge. What is clear is that CSS has lost some £8m, having bought PFD for £8m cash and £4m of shares in 2001. But Neil, like Michel, has an ego matched only by the size of his address book. He will give it his best shot.

* This August marks the 25th Edinburgh International Book Festival. The 2008 event, once again directed by Catherine Lockerbie, will showcase 200 authors from 45 countries, among them Louis de Bernières, Margaret Atwood and Hanif Kureishi, plus a notable roster of politicians and broadcasters. A mystery guest, to be "revealed in a new light by Ian Rankin", will be unveiled as it opens. Full details at

* Alan Sillitoe is sure to be a draw in Edinburgh. The author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning is 80 this autumn – HarperPerennial will publish a new edition of that classic – and Peter Owen will publish Richard Bradford's authorised biography, The Life of a Long-Distance Writer. Sillitoe is an important figure in 20th-century fiction and kept up a lively correspondence with his confrères, not least the late Laureate, Ted Hughes.