Cover Stories: The Commonwealth Writers' Prize; Alan Samson

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The Independent Culture

* The Commonwealth Writers' Prize, in which winners from four regions go forward to a grand finale, has a tremendous knack of picking up tomorrow's classic novels quickly on its truly global radar - from A Suitable Boy to White Teeth. So watch out for the gifted Cumbrian-born newcomer Sarah Hall, not yet 30. After her victory in the Eurasia region, she has now won the overall prize for Best First Book with her fiercely lyrical Lake District tragedy Haweswater (Faber). The Best Book prize - awarded this year at the final judging sessions in Calgary, Canada - went to Barbados-born, Toronto-based Austin Clarke for his West Indian epic of slavery and its long legacy, The Polished Hoe.

* With the future of publisher Time Warner (formerly Little, Brown) still in the balance because of the mismanagement that surrounded the company's failed merger with AOL, it's no surprise that editorial director Alan Samson has succumbed to the blandishments of the Orion Group. Over many years, he has handled authors from Douglas Hurd and Edwina Currie to - Norma Major. (We won't mention Anthea Turner, shall we?) Samson will remain until August, by which time the future of Time Warner will be clear. Speculation as to the buyer currently centres on the Perseus Group. A takeover by Random House owner Bertelsmann, which ought to interest the DTI for monopoly reasons, would result in swingeing job cuts.