Cover stories: Politico's, Charles Frazier, Graham Swift

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

In just five years, Politico's – first a bookshop, then also a publisher – has become part of the publishing landscape. This week, it celebrated its fifth birthday with a £100-a-head dinner at the Savoy, where the guest of honour was Lady Thatcher. Condemned now to remain mute, the lady simply sat and soaked up the applause and the cries of "Hear, hear" that greeted every utterance from those speaking on her behalf, including the MC, Gyles Brandreth. Sounding uncannily like her Spitting Image puppet, Margaret brought the house down with just one sentence: "Thank you so much. I can't tell you what a pleasure it is for a Prime Minister to sit and listen to so many compliments." Fortunately, she'd gone before she had to witness the sad spectacle of a limited-edition pair of her earlier books, "personally signed by Margaret Thatcher", fetch only second-best price in a charity auction organised by Jim Davidson.

¿ This week, Sceptre, the literary imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, paid around £800,000 for the second novel by Charles Frazier, the quietly spoken American whose debut, Cold Mountain, which they bought for just £30,000, won hearts and minds around the world and sold more than 600,000 in Britain alone. That figure should increase significantly when the film version – starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law and directed by Anthony Minghella – is released next year. In the US, Random House has paid a staggering $8.2m for the new novel, while the producer Scott Rudin parted with $3m for the screen rights.

¿ Meanwhile, two very different authors have been the subject of large "transfer fees": Picador, which had published him for a decade, has indeed lost Graham Swift to the Penguin Group, which was the Booker-winner's first publisher, with Learning to Swim and Out of this World. Swift and his agent, Caradoc King, decided weeks ago to up the ante, though Cape and Faber decided not to bid. Nor was Penguin very keen, though Tom Weldon, MD, has now declared the new novel, The Light of Day, a "dazzling achievement" and expressed the hope that "this is the beginning of a long, happy and successful partnership." If it isn't, he'll soon be off. The only consolation, then, for Swift's long-time editor and friend Peter Straus is that Picador has acquired Scott Turow, who, back in 1987, launched the genre we now know as the legal thriller with Presumed Innocent.

Comments