Cover Stories: Royals reduced to vanity publishing; Dennis Wheatley; Join a Library Day; Peter Mayer

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The Independent Culture

* A couple of decades ago, when the young Diana had made the Royal Family newly fashionable, every publisher rushed out a book for royal occasions. Many were bestsellers. Now, the Royal Family is reduced, like many wannabe authors, to vanity publishing: next month, the Royal Collection Trust will publish Charles, Prince of Wales – A Birthday Souvenir Album to mark the 60th birthday of the heir to the throne. Despite the best efforts of so many advisers, it has come to this.



* Those of us of a certain age can remember how, round about 14, everyone at school was reading Dennis Wheatley's occult classics – among them, To the Devil, A Daughter and The Devil Rides Out. Later he fell out of fashion and print. Now Chorion, whose portfolio includes the Christie, Chandler and Simenon estates, has acquired the Wheatley estate, believing him ripe for rediscovery. Chorion will be looking not just at reissuing his novels, but also at screen possibilities .



* Tomorrow is the first national "Join a Library Day", part of the National Year of Reading, and aimed at families. Those signing up with a library will be given a welcome pack, while the first 235,000 new young members will get a free copy of the National Year of Reading's Ultimate Book Guide.



* Peter Mayer was the American who resuscitated Penguin in the 1980s, buying up mighty hardback houses in order to obtain their copyrights and thus guarantee the big bird's survival. Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Award last week, he recalled how he had arrived amid the "winter of discontent", and was first regarded as both "un-British" and "un-Penguin". As Penguin's fortunes changed, so did attitudes to this unquiet American: as a colleague put it, "not so much a breath of fresh air – more a tornado". As an independent publisher now, with Duckworth in London and Overlook in New York, Mayer says that he hopes to cause trouble for a few years yet: "Worthwhile books trouble our complacency, sharpening our minds and senses. Some are dangerous and they too must be published." Amen to that.

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