Cover Stories: Queen Mother; Who murdered Chaucer?; Penguin US

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The Independent Culture

The holidays are scarcely over and already William Shawcross has begun work on the authorised biography of the late Queen Mother, for which Penguin have paid well over a million. For the first time ever, the Queen herself has consented to be interviewed. But HM does not require approval of the final manuscript, which will surely tell us more about the Queen Mother than her hatred of Mrs Simpson and her love of G&T and violet creams.

Who murdered Chaucer? is a provocative title for a book about the author of The Canterbury Tales. But that is what former Python turned children's author Terry Jones has called his latest opus. Jones has found no record of Chaucer's death - apparently, he simply disappears, as though written out of history. Jones believes it was the church what done it. Who Murdered Chaucer? is published by Methuen in October and is the prelude to a TV series in preparation for next spring.

It seems like only yesterday that Penguin staff grew cannabis on the fire escape at the London office. A more ominous sign of the times comes now from Penguin US, which has announced the formation of an as-yet-unnamed but "major'' imprint devoted to "books of political opinion and dissent with a conservative perspective''. Penguin founder Allen Lane, along with many publishers of his generation, must be spinning in his grave.