Cover Stories: Silver Moon, Lady Thatcher, Barry Norman

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The Independent Culture

Having satisfied the final customer, Silver Moon Women's Bookshop invited the trade in to its Charing Cross Road premises for a party to celebrate 17 glorious years. Just as guests threatened to shed tears at the shop's demise, an announcement during the toast raised the rafters. Though co-founders Sue Butterworth and Jane Cholmeley will stand down, a deal with an independent up the road means that the store's loyal customers need not feel bereft. Silver Moon at Foyles will, once the refurbishment is completed, be an in-store area dedicated to books by and for women. Until that is up and running, probably in late spring, book-buyers will have to make do with Silver Moon's mail order and website, all now running out of Foyles. Even Christina might approve of that one.

Aside from poking her head over the parapet to advance the opinion that British Muslims weren't "sorry enough" for the events of 11 September, the Blessed Margaret has been notably quiet. However, Lady Thatcher has not been idle. She has been busy finishing a new opus on Statecraft, to be published by HarperCollins in April, when CEO Victoria Barnsley – whose first book at Fourth Estate was by Ken Livingstone – will be required for ceremonial duties. Having put the past firmly behind her, the former PM writes about the future, with all its dangers that spin will prevail over gut instinct. The blurb reminds us that Thatcher's partnership with Reagan "transformed the political landscape... achieved a crushing defeat of communism and so bought liberty and prosperity with the grasp of millions". While leaving millions of others enslaved by poverty – but we needn't let that detain us.

The man responsible for launching Thatcher on the road to Number 10 was Conservative MP Airey Neave, whose spell in Colditz, from which he was the first to escape, worked wonders for his career. Blown up by a car bomb three months before the 1979 election, he had by way of thanks been offered whichever Cabinet position he wanted. As Paul Routledge reveals in Public Servant, Secret Agent: the enigmatic life and violent Death of Airey Neave, due from HarperCollins next March, he wanted Northern Ireland, always regarded by Mrs T as a Siberia. Recruited into MI6 following his escape, Neave spent eight years in the Security Services before becoming an MP and would have been a crucial figure in the province. But, to the Nationalists, he was a threat that could not be allowed to thrive... Routledge, whose biography of Peter Mandelson got him into hot water, will reveal "the ghost in the Establishment'' and a life to which there was far more than met the eye.

Barry Norman's craggy features are less evident on TV now that he's decamped to Sky, and his low-key approach is missed. Between keeping up with the movies, Norman has been writing his memoirs, bought this week by Simon & Schuster for the usual six-figure sum. His publishers promise "an honest, clever and humorous take on the world of film and journalism" when they publish next autumn.

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