Cover Stories: WHSmith; Gerald Durrell's classics; Bradt Travel Guides

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There was widespread gloom among publishers at what seemed a foregone conclusion – that WHSmith would buy the UK bookstore operation of Borders, put on sale by its US parent. While Smith's has improved as a bookseller, it will never offer a wide range of titles – concentrating on bestsellers and celebrity. Its assumed goal was to buy out the competition and close stores surplus to requirements, leaving Britain with just one bookselling chain: Waterstone's. This week, out of nowhere has emerged Luke Johnson (above), Chairman of Channel 4 and the entrepreneur behind the equity firm Risk Capital Partners. The son of journalist-historian Paul Johnson is no stranger to the world of books. In 2001, he put together a (failed) bid for Waterstone's and has, apparently, been waiting for his moment since. Unusually for an investor, he sees bookselling as culturally important. As publishers return for the autumn season, a great many fingers are being crossed.

Publishers' decisions about what to keep in print are surprising. One might have assumed that all Gerald Durrell's books would be available. However, it has been left to indie Summersdale to revive three Durrell classics: Menagerie Manor, just released; The Aye-Aye and I, scheduled for January; and Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons (February). It appears the firm was approached by the Curtis Brown agency, acting for Lee Durrell and the Durrell Wildlife Trust. Summersdale has also just breathed new life into Henry Miller's Greek travelogue, The Colossus of Maroussi, and James Hilton's Lost Horizons.

Still with travel, Bradt Travel Guides will host its annual travel writing seminar in Amersham on 15 September. The speakers include Hilary Bradt, who this year "retired" from her company to spend more time travelling. Workshops will cover writing technique and practicalities. Further details at