Cover Stories: William Hague; Penguin departures; W H Smith

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The Independent Culture

William Hague, tipped by some for a return to a Cameron-led Tory front bench, can still watch next week's Tory leadership finale with a detached eye. Following the success of his biography of William Pitt the Younger, he has now signed for a second book. His subject is William Wilberforce, whose campaign to abolish the slave trade achieved success in parliament in 1807. Like Hague, Wilberforce represented a Yorkshire constituency. Richard Johnson of HarperPress is again the publisher.

* Not a good end of year for Penguin, which has lost two major authors. Jim Crace has severed his 20-year association with the publisher. The Viking imprint had been due to publish his next, The Pest House, in autumn 2006, but he has transferred to Picador following a deal by David Godwin. His publisher there is an old Penguin hand, Andrew Kidd, who describes Crace's work as "unique and unforgettable". In another blow, William Boyd has left Viking's sister imprint Hamish Hamilton for Bloomsbury in a deal brokered by ICM's Kate Jones. Alexandra Pringle has bought Restless and describes the novel as "quite literally spellbinding". It tells the stories of a Second World War spy and her daughter.

* As the book trade girded its loins for the decision on the HMV/Waterstone's takeover of Ottakar's, W H Smith, which has spent most of the year eyeballing publishers over terms, saw its share price increase beyond £4. Though the retailer in the end had to blink, it has managed to create the illusion of victory. Meanwhile, WHS CEO Kate Swann, who may yet face another takeover bid, pocketed the maximum bonus: £606,000, over a salary of £485,000. A staggering £4m. windfall awaits if she can lift the price to £5.57 by August 2007.

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