Cover Stories: Waterstone's; Mark Haddon; Canongate's MD

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The Independent Culture

Tim Waterstone, founder of the bookseller that bears his name, has declared his hand, making an indicative offer to buy Waterstone's from HMV Group for up to £280m, or a maximum of 70p a share. The condition is that any deal not include Ottakar's, the purchase of which, he believes, would distract Waterstone's from solving its own problems. No surprise there - he has often declared his intention of buying back the chain. What did surprise the book trade was the inclusion of former Penguin CEO Anthony Forbes Watson in the move. He and the publisher parted company a year or so ago - an unjust departure, it was felt. Authors, still opposed to Waterstone's designs on Ottakar's, would welcome a Waterstone-Forbes Watson takeover. But publishers worry that Tim W's vision remains stuck in the 1980s. And HMV has yet to decide if it may be prepared to sell.

* Three years after The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Cape will publish Mark Haddon's new novel this autumn. That book was - as Cape publisher Dan Franklin notes - "always going to be a very hard act to follow". But Haddon has, apparently, done so. A Spot of Bother, very much for adults, tells the story of 57-year-old George Hall, whose retirement is turned upside down by goings-on in his family.

* David Graham, Canongate's MD, has been lured south by Sigrid Rausing to become MD of Granta, which she bought last year, and Portobello Books: the Philip Gwyn Jones operation whose start-up she funded. Graham's skills and vision combined with Jamie Byng's creative energy to transform the Edinburgh indie into an award-winning publisher, and he'll be hard to replace.