Cover Stories: Sandra Howard; REad; Orhan Pamuk; Tim Willocks

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The Independent Culture

After years of false starts, Sandra Howard's career as a novelist has finally moved into first gear.

After years of false starts, Sandra Howard's career as a novelist has finally moved into first gear. Simon & Schuster have signed up two books by the wife of the Tory leader; the first will deal with the dilemmas of women MPs. Suzanne Baboneau, who bought the books, accepts Mrs Howard needs work but thinks she's "a natural writer". That's not a view shared by editors who, down the years, have seen her work. But Baboneau is a highly-rated editor who has helped create a number of silk purses. Perhaps Philip Dunne, chairman of Ottakar's and the newly-elected Tory MP for Ludlow, will ensure that his shops get behind the novel next autumn.

* REad, an Ottakar's-sponsored book strand of the Salisbury Internatioanl Arts Festival, runs from 29 May until 11 June. Alexander McCall Smith kicks off at the Salisbury Playhouse; among other highlights are Michael Palin and Patrick French in conversation, Louis de Bernières - talking to Boyd Tonkin - and an Iraq war discussion between Colonel Tim Collins and Kate Adie (both on 5 June). Details at www.salisburyfestival., or via the box office on 01722 320333.

* Orhan Pamuk, whose Snow was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, has also reached the final six of the Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction with his memoir Istanbul. But shame on the organisers for failing to mention that their judges couldn't have read a word of it without Maureen Freely's superb translation from Turkish.

* Green River Rising, the debut novel by former psychiatrist Tim Willocks, was published by Cape with a fanfare in the early 1990s. Cape's Dan Franklin has now received, out of the blue, Willocks's latest opus via email. The Religion, set in 1565 during the siege of Malta, formed a very large attachment. It's described as "superb" and "incredibly violent". Willocks has been in Hollywood, making and losing several fortunes.