The Literator: Independent means

In a year of highs, lows and soporific celebrity memoirs, The Literator picks the book world's heroes and villains of 2006
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The Independent Culture

HEROES

Margaret Busby

Publishing remains white and middle class, and, as an industry, it is always under-represented in the Honours lists. How pleasing, then, that author and journalist Margaret Busby, co-founder of Allison & Busby and former editorial director of Earthscan, received an OBE in the New Year's list. Young black publishers could have no better mentor.

Stephen Page

Stephen Page was a key figure in the success of Fourth Estate back in the heady days of Longitude. He followed founder Victoria Barnsley to HarperCollins but was soon head-hunted to run Faber, whose once-glorious laurels were in need of repotting. In five years, his sales and marketing savvy and leadership skills have breathed new life into the house that Eliot built.

Independent Alliance

Not only has Page reinvigorated Faber; he has reinvigorated the independent publishing and bookselling scenes, with his formation of the Faber-led Independent Alliance, which now includes publishers and booksellers.

Independent publishing

Independent publishers continue to flourish. Serpent's Tail, whose authors recently collected an Orange and a Nobel, this year celebrated its 20th birthday, still under the direction of founder Pete Ayrton. Arcadia, founded by Gary Pulsifer, and Profile, by Andrew Franklin, both turned 10; each can look back on a shelf of awards and successes.

Sigrid Rausing

Part of the fourth richest family in Britain, Tetrapak heiress Sigrid Rausing has spent much of her time and money supporting women's issues. Last year, she ventured into publishing, funding Philip Gwyn Jones's start-up, Portobello Books, and this year she bought Granta. Cynics hint at a tax ploy, but all the evidence suggests that she and her film producer husband, Eric Abraham, are serious in their interests.

National Literacy Trust

Launched in 1993, the National Literacy Trust has one simple aim - to build a literate nation through initiatives such as Reading is Fundamental, which enables disadvantaged children to choose up to three books a year free. The NLT believes that everyone should have access to books.

Tim Coates

A former bookseller and publisher, Tim Coates has emerged as a champion of the public library service. He has won support from library professionals and public alike as he argues for better-trained staff, longer opening hours and an improvement in "appallingly lacking" book stocks.

Gary McKeone

Over the past decade, as some new Lottery funding became available, Arts Council England's literature director Gary McKeone used it with vision, energy and flair. He made a huge difference to writers and readers all over the UK, and his tenure led, as poet laureate Andrew Motion put it, to much that was "brightest and best" about the literary scene. And his reward? The order of the boot from ACE as part of a confused restructuring that also saw his colleagues in other art-forms leave, and lost the Council much credibility among creators. McKeone will bounce back, of course. Can we say the same for the rudderless Arts Council itself?

VILLAINS

Celebs

Jordan, Chantelle, Jade Goody, Kerry Katona, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Billie Piper, Victoria Beckham... These people with no stories to tell and no words to call their own have come to dominate publishing. It's estimated that around £10m has been squandered this year on such punts. Most of that will be written off. Yet, despite the boardroom hand-wringing, last week Headline signed up David Gest and Transworld Nancy Dell'Olio.

Bloomsbury

So much money, so little taste. A publisher set up with such high ideals 20 years ago now pays £1m for the memoirs of pop star Gary Barlow and £400,000 for the diaries of disgraced former Home Secretary David Blunkett. The latter struggled to sell a couple of thousand copies. Surely the Harry Potter squillions could have been put to better use?

Hachette Livre

The French-owned multinational became Britain's biggest publisher early this year when it added the book interests of Time Warner to its portfolio. It can afford to, for its parent Lagardère Group owns a 7.5 per cent stake in the EADS arms and aircraft consortium, a partner in the Eurofighter programme and co-owner of the world's largest missile company.

Gail Rebuck

To lose one key publisher may be a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. First, Hutchinson's Sue Freestone decided that the Random House culture that Rebuck steers as chief exec was less conducive to good publishing than it once was, and decamped to Anthony Cheetham's new Quercus. Then Heinemann's Ravi Mirchandani, widely regarded as a wayward genius, was relieved of his post. Happily, he ended the year hired by Atlantic, where he will surely flourish. Cheetham has secured another Random House refugee: Christopher MacLehose, who was put out to grass when his cherished Harvill list was merged with Secker.

Hunter Davies

Hunter Davies can really write, so why does he prostitute himself ghost-writing not one but two Gazza memoirs, and putting words into the mouth of Wayne Rooney? Presumably for the money, with which Davies's children have accused him of being careful. Indeed, he wrote a book on the subject, Mean with Money. What, one wonders, does his wife, novelist and biographer Margaret Forster, think of it?

Judith Regan

American publisher Judith Regan has delivered some crap in her time but her crass OJ Simpson project, If I Did It, plumbed previously unseen depths. Bowing to the inevitable, her boss, Rupert Murdoch, canned both the book and the accompanying TV programme, not to mention Regan, whom he has fired - although she seems keen to have a noisy day in court.

Turkey's 'Article 301'

The notorious section of the penal code that criminalises "insults" to Turkish identity has allowed jingoistic prosecutors to launch a concerted assault on the freedom of writers, journalists and academics. With the higher-profile victims, charges amount to a sort of low-level psychological terrorism. This year's Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk was swiftly acquitted, as was novelist Elif Shafak - prosecuted for the views of a fictional character about the Armenian massacres. Many other cases, out of sight of the global media, go the distance and lead to convictions. One chink of light is that, under EU pressure, Turkish PM Erdogan has hinted that he may be open to proposals for reform.

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