They are bestselling authors whose works sell for millions, but yesterday writers from Margaret Atwood to Stephen King unveiled the first chapters of their potential new blockbusters without taking a penny in a literary version of Live Aid for victims of the tsunami.
Sixteen authors, also including Nick Hornby, the Booker Prize winner Ian McEwan and the Nobel laureate J M Coetzee, gave pieces to an anthology, New Beginnings , which will donate at least £4.82 of the £5 cover price to the cause.
The unprecedented collaboration was the brainchild of Jonny Geller, managing director of the books division of the agents Curtis Brown, who called on the Harry Potter publishers, Bloomsbury, to assist with sales worldwide.
The book is being published in English and in German in a project that it is hoped will raise millions for the communities devastated by the Indian Ocean tragedy.
Mr Geller said he hoped the volume would be a must-buy for any booklover. "To glimpse the opening chapter of your favourite author's new work before it is published will be an unprecedented experience for their fans."
Tracy Chevalier, the author of Girl with the Pearl Earring, who contributes, added: "The British public have been impressively generous in the early days after the disaster. The anthology is a way of nudging people to continue giving over the long-term," she said.
The other writers featured are Alexander McCall Smith, Harlan Coben, Scott Turow, Vikram Seth, Joanna Trollope, Maeve Binchy, Marian Keyes, Nicholas Evans, Mark Haddon and Paulo Coelho. They have sold £150m of books between them in Britain in the past five years.
In a literary puzzle to support the venture, we here present the first few lines from each chapter to match the style to the author.
Can you distinguish the thriller king from the queen of the Aga saga? Do you know your Bookers from your bonkbusters? Answers at bottom of page
1: Blood and Scissors
It began when George was trying on a black suit in Alders the week before Bob Green's Funeral.
It was not the prospect of the funeral that had unsettled him. Nor Bob dying. To be honest he had always found Bob's locker-room bonhomie a little trying and he was secretly rather relieved that they would not be playing squash again. Moreover, the manner in which Bob had died was oddly reassuring, a heart attack watching the Boat Race on television two Sundays before.
2: Second Honeymoon
Edie put her hand out, took a breath and slowly, slowly pushed open his bedroom door. The room inside looked as if he had never left it. The bed was unmade, the curtains half-drawn, the carpet almost invisible under trails of clothing.
There were single trainers on shelves, mugs and cereal bowls on the floor, scatterings of papers and books everywhere. On the walls, the same posters hung haphazardly from nuggets of blue gum; a Shakespeare play from a long ago school outing, Kate Moss in a mackintosh, the Stereophonics from a concert at Earls Court. It looked, at first glance, as it had looked for a large part of his 22 years. It looked as if he was coming back, any minute.
3: Lisey's Story
The spouses of well-known writers are almost invisible; no one knows better than Lisey Landon, who has given only one actual interview in her life. This was for the well-known women's magazine that publishes the column "Yes, I'm Married to Him!" She spent roughly half of its 500-word length explaining that her name (actually short for Lisa) rhymes with CeeCee. Most of the other half had to do with her recipe for slow-cooked roast beef. Her sister Amanda, who can be mean, said that the accompanying photograph made Lisey look fat.
4: The Innocent
You never meant to kill him.
Your name is Matt Hunter. You are 20 years old. You grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb in northern New Jersey not far from Manhattan. You live on the poorer side of town, but it's a pretty wealthy town. Your parents work hard and love you unconditionally. You are a middle child. You have an older brother whom you worship, and a younger sister whom you tolerate.
Like every kid in your town, you grow up worrying about your future and what college you will get into. You work hard enough and get good, if not spectacular, grades. Your average is an A minus. You don't make the top 10 per cent but you're close.
5: Slow Man
The blow catches him from the right, sharp and surprising and painful, like a bolt of electricity; lifting him up off the bicycle. Relax! he tells himself as he flies through the air (flies through the air with the greatest of ease!), and indeed he can feel his limbs go obediently slack. Like a cat, he tells himself: roll, then spring to your feet, ready for what comes next. The unusual word limber or limbre is on the horizon too.
That is not quite as it turns out, however. Whether because his legs disobey or because he is for a moment stunned (he hears rather than feels the impact of his skull on the bitumen, distant, wooden, like a mallet-blow), he does not spring to his feet at all, but on the contrary slides metre after metre, on and on, until he is quite lulled by the sliding.
He lies stretched out, at peace. It is a glorious morning. The sun's touch is kind.
6: Untitled Novel
Although she never said so directly, Miss Pelham made it plain that she did not want Jem hanging about in her garden. Whenever it wasn't raining, she liked to take a teacup full of broth -- its dull, meaty smell visiting the Kellaways upstairs every morning and evening like a persistent suitor - and sit with it on a little bench that faced sideways halfway along the garden. She would remain there for a good hour in the morning, and in the early evening until it got dark. Jem watched her sometimes from their windows upstairs, or round the side of the privy.
Miss Pelham rarely drank from the cup. When she got up to go inside again she would dump the remains over a grape vine growing up the wall next to the bench. She believed the broth did the plant good. Certainly she hoped it would make the vine grow faster and more robust than her neighbour Mr Blake's.
7: Friends, Lovers, Chocolate
The man in the brown Harris tweed overcoat - a double-breasted overcoat with three small leather-covered buttons on the cuffs - made his way slowly down the street that led down the spine of Edinburgh. He was aware of the seagulls which had drifted in from the shore and which were swooping down on to the cobblestones, picking up dropped fragments from somebody who had been careless with a fish. Their mews were the loudest sound in the street at that moment, as there was little traffic and the city was unusually quiet. It was October, it was mid-morning, and there were few people about. A boy on the other side of the road, scruffy and tousle-haired, was leading a dog along with a makeshift leash, a length of string. The dog, a small Scottish terrier, seemed unwilling to follow the boy and glanced for a moment at the man as if imploring him to intervene to stop the tugging and the pulling.
8: The Divide
They rose before dawn and stepped out beneath a moonless sky aswarm with stars. Their breath made clouds of the chill air and their boots crunched on the congealed gravel of the motel parking lot. The old station wagon was the only car there, its roof and hood veneered with a dim refracting frost. The boy fixed their skis to the roof rack while his father stowed their packs then walked around to remove the newspaper pinned by the wipers to the windshield. It was stiff with ice and crackled in his hands as he balled it. Before they climbed into the car they lingered a moment, just stood there, listening to the silence and gazing west at the mountains silhouetted by stars.
9: If You Were Me
There was no return address on the envelope, which was a little weird, because Americans always do that. Already I was slightly uneasy. Even more so when I saw my name and address; it looked as if it had been done by someone who'd just learned to write. (Or, more likely, the old writing-with-your-left-hand-to-disguise-your handwriting trick. Wouldn't it have been easier to just type the damn thing?)
The sensible woman would not have opened it. The sensible women would have thrown it in the bin and walked away from it. But, apart from a short period between the ages of 29 and 30, when had I ever been sensible?
10: All Parents Keep Secrets
All parents keep secrets from their children. My father kept more than most.
Dad passed away in 2001 at the age of 86, the result of what the doctor called multi-system failure - heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema - which could have been short-handed as 60 years of cigarettes. In a characteristic demonstration of resolve, my mother refused to leave the burial details to my sister and me, and insisted on meeting the funeral director with us.
She chose a casket big enough to require a hood ornament, then pondered each word as the mortician read out the proposed death announcement.
11: But It Could Still
Things look bad: I admit it. They look worse than they've looked for years, for centuries. They look the worst ever. Perils loom on all sides. But it could still turn out all right. The baby fell from the eighth-floor balcony but there was a sheepdog underneath that leapt up and caught it in mid-air. A bystander took a picture, it was in the paper. The boy went under for the third time, but the mother - although she was reading a novel - heard a gurgling sound and ran down to the dock, and reached down into the water, and pulled the boy up by his hair, and there was no brain damage. When the explosion occurred the young man was underneath the sink, fixing the plumbing, and so he was not injured.
Can I explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block? Of course I can explain why I wanted to jump off the top of a tower block. I'm not a bloody idiot. I can explain it because it wasn't inexplicable. It was a logical decision, the product of proper thought. It wasn't even very serious thought, either. I don't mean it was whimsical, I just mean that it wasn't terribly complicated, or agonised. Put it this way: say you were, I don't know, an assistant bank manager, in Guildford. And you'd been thinking of emigrating, and then you were offered the job of managing a bank in Sydney. Well, even though it's a pretty straightforward decision, you'd still have to think for a bit, wouldn't you? You'd at least have to work out whether you could bear to move, whether you could leave your friends and colleagues behind, whether you could uproot your wife and kids.
13: The Zahir
According to the writer Jorge Luis Borges, the idea of the Zahir comes from Islamic tradition and is thought to have arisen at some point in the eighteenth century. Zahir, in Arabic, means visible, present, incapable of going unnoticed. It is someone or something which, once we have come into contact with them or it, gradually occupies our every thought, until we can think of nothing else. This can be considered either a state of holiness or of madness.
Encyclopaedia of the Fantastic , 1953
Her name is Esther; she is a war correspondent who has just returned from Iraq because of the imminent invasion of that country; she is 30 years old, married, without children. He is an unidentified male, between 23 and 25 years old, with dark, Mongolian features.
Some hours before dawn, Henry Perowne, a neurosurgeon, wakes to find himself already in motion, pushing back the covers from a sitting position, and then rising to his feet.
It's not clear to him when exactly he became conscious, nor does it seem relevant. He's never done such a thing before, but he isn't alarmed or even faintly surprised, for the movement is easy, and pleasurable in his limbs, and his back and legs feel unusually strong. He stands there, naked by the bed - he always sleeps naked - feeling his full height, aware of his wife's patient breathing and of the wintry bedroom air on his skin.
15: Earth and Sky
How shall I know where I should go?
How may I see the I that's me?
The earth so high, the sky so low,
How may I see where I must go?
The dust so wet, the rain so dry
How shall I know the me that's I?
By note and word and thought and fact
I plan, I shape, I will, I act.
By touch and kiss and six times three
I was, and am, and will not be.
So swift this sky of rain and stars!
So slow this earth of dust and scars!
When I am dead how shall I see
Where I must go that I may be?
16: Georgia Hall
Georgia had always been a leader. Way back at school, she was the one with style. When Georgia decided to carry her school books wrapped up in a red ribbon, everyone else abandoned their schoolbags and satchels and got ribbons also.
It was the same when we arrived at university. She didn't appear to try too hard but everyone wanted to do things her way. She read art history, always saying it was an undemanding thing to do, yet she was at the very top of her group.
A: Margaret Atwood
Booker Prize-winning Canadian writer of The Handmaid's Tale
B: Maeve Binchy
Famed for stories of her native Ireland such as Circle of Friends
C: Harlan Coben
American author of Just One Look and No Second Chance
D: Paulo Coelho
Brazil-born author of the international best-seller The Alchemist
E: JM Coetzee
South African Nobel Prize winner who wrote In the Heart of the Country
F: Stephen King
Master of horror classics such as Carrie, The Shining and Misery
G: Alexander McCall Smith
Famed for The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, 1998
H: Ian McEwan
Booker Prize-winning novelist's works include Enduring Love, now a film
I: Joanna Trollope
English writer of Other People's Children and The Choir, both now TV series
J: Scott Turow
The US lawyer-turned-writer whose legal thrillers include Personal Injuries
K: Nick Hornby,
Created a new genre of "blokes' books" with Fever Pitch and High Fidelity;
L: Marian Keyes,
Has sold more than 2.5 million copies of books such as Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married;
M: Mark Haddon
Famed for Whitbread Prize-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
N: Vikram Seth
Indian novelist and poet, who won literary acclaim with his 1993 award-winning A Suitable Boy
O: Tracy Chevalier
Best known for Girl with a Pearl Earring
P: Nicholas Evans
Author of The Horse Whisperer
ANSWERS: 1m; 2i; 3f; 4c; 5e; 6o; 7g; 8p; 9l; 10j; 11a; 12k; 13d; 14h; 15n; 16bReuse content