Richard and Judy, the saviours of book sales, write a thriller

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They have already worked their wonders for book sales with their television book club. Now, daytime TV stars Richard and Judy are hoping their ability to create instant best-sellers will work for them, too.

The pair have been working on a jointly written novel of their own, which is currently being touted to publishers as a crime book.

If successful, the Channel 4 chat hosts will join a roll call of celebrities who have turned their hands to fiction, including actor Hugh Laurie, model and actress Pamela Anderson and pop star Britney Spears. The Fast Show's Charlie Higson tried his hand at children's fiction and Madonna has written stories for youngsters.

Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan became unlikely champions of the book trade last year when they launched their weekly book club, discussing a title every few days with celebrity readers.

The formula had already been provedsuccessful for Oprah Winfrey's US show.

Each of the titles on the Richard and Judy reading list saw a substantial boost in sales, occasionally pushing their authors on to the best-seller lists for the first time. The novelist Joseph O'Connor saw a 350 per cent boost in his sales when his novel Star of the Sea was featured and the film rights were bought.

It will not be the couple's first time in print: three years ago, long before they became the saviours of the book trade, they published a joint autobiography, writing alternate chapters to examine their lives in the public eye. Richard, 49, and Judy, 57, have occasionally talked of a desire to write a novel but have not done so until starting this book. Its content is not known although it is believed to be a crime novel. and it is said to feature a couple who meet in a TV newsroom.

By coincidence, Madeley and Finnigan met when they were working on TV programmes in the North-west of England and soon began working together on the news show Granada Reports. It has led to some speculation that there might be an autobiographical element to their book.

Observers will be checking to see if any of the characters in the book have experiences which echo their lives. Other stars to land fiction deals recently have included the glamour model Jordan who picked up a three-book deal after her autobiography proved to be a surprise sales hit.

The model Naomi Campbell published a novel, Swan, a decade ago, although it later emerged to have been largely co-authored with a ghost writer.

Just last month, Richard and Judy used their name to launch a book - a wine guide to tie in with the weekly wine club on their show, although it was actually the work of their show's producer, Amanda Ross.

Launching the book at a party in Channel 4's London headquarters, Richard held up a copy and said: "It's quite thick and there are lots of pictures in it."


The Teatime Murders
By Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan
(as imagined by John Walsh)

The body lay on the library floor, its blood seeping into the tastefully patterned Berber rug, making it look a perfect fright. Death

always makes a shocking mess, which someone has to clean up.

Janey O'Flaherty, sweet-natured, wise and evergreenly attractive chair

of the Little Snoring Women's Institute, looked at the corpse. He seemed a nice man, showing signs of age around the temples, which had been split open with an axe. A shy man behind the surface bluster, she surmised, probably wary of commitment because his wife had left him on his 42nd birthday to pursue a lesbian affair. Janey had seen it happen a million times. He had a nice smile, a bit like President Clinton's, but of course -

Her thoughts were interrupted by DCI Ron Matey from the Yard. He was businesslike. "Yep, yep, yep," he said by way of introduction. "Let's get cracking. He's dead. Someone killed him. It's murder. Did you do it?"

"Don't be silly, Inspector," said Janey with a charming, oddly musical laugh. "Why would I do such a thing?"