On Wednesday I went to the elegant Georgian offices of Publishing News to join the judging panel for the KPMG Publisher of the Year Award. The winner will be revealed this week, at the British Book Awards, hosted by Richard and Judy and televised for the first time. I felt my contributions were decidedly basic, and mostly along the lines of: "They've published some very good books this year..." "They've published some great stuff - and some rubbish too..." Perhaps it was just as well that we discovered that everyone had put the same publisher in their top two (and most had put it at number one).
My next stop was the TV studios in south London where Richard & Judy is filmed. I was due to appear on the show to talk about their book club. I quickly asked my fellow judges what they thought of the famous "Richard and Judy" effect on book sales. The booksellers present (representatives from Waterstone's, Borders and a London independent bookshop) were thrilled with the sales, but hadn't actually checked out the programme. It's a very strange thing: I've been on Richard & Judy a few times now, and I'm always amazed at the reaction. "I saw you on Richard & Judy last night..." people will say. Then the excuses start: "I don't normally watch it, I just happened to be in, I was ill, I was at my friend's house, I was channel-surfing..." In fact, one of the few people who have ever come up to me with unashamed glee and said: "I saw you on Richard & Judy!!" was that well-known low-brow, the polyglot novelist, critic and Booker judge Philip Hensher.
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You too could enjoy the buzz at the British Book Awards! (Far more glamorous than the dingy old Booker, dear.) It takes place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane on 7 April and Richard & Judy has some guest passes for the "Red Carpet arrivals area". If you would like to cheer the celebrities along - and I do mean celebrities, not mere authors - then call 020 7091 4791, or log on to www.channel4.com/richard&judy to register.
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The Notting Hill restaurant 192 closed this week, haunt of legions of Hillbilly literati and celebrati, plus a certain Ms Bridget Jones. But I went off the place around 18 months ago when I had lunch there with novelist and regular Emma Tennant. We'd just ordered drinks when Emma turned to me and said: "Gosh! I haven't seen you for ages!" The departing waiter promptly pirouetted, leaned over and cooed to Emma: "I know! I've been awaaaaaay!" Restaurants where the staff are the stars... hmmm. That's so Nineties, don't you think?Reuse content