`Book people are wonderful people. Publishers, writers, editors, printers, they're all wonderful'
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The Independent Culture
The British Book Awards are known as The Nibbies. The prizes are big gold pen nibs, and the implication is that writers still use nibbies to write their books, rather than laptopies, Word for Windowies, and mousies. The whole thing is quite endearing, if a little incongruous, and not unlike renaming the Oscars, the Zoetropes. It's a curious night. The shortlist for Book of the Year, for instance, includes Nicholas Evans's The Horse Whisperer (a man talks to horses) rubbing shoulders with Delia Smith's Winter Collection (photos of cranberries). Other categories include Best Author, in which Martin Amis (the colliding of galaxies) is pitted against Delia Smith (stews and salads), and 42 others. This is the nation's biggest shortlist. One hopes, for the person who comes 44th, that they don't do it in reverse order.

Equally unusual, then, is the pre-dinner drinks party at the Park Lane Hilton. In one corner Martin Amis is telling a rapt audience that the young backpacker recently killed by the monk in Thailand was found to be carrying a copy of London Fields in her suitcase. "Ooh," say the crowd.

"It certainly is a sinister coincidence," says Martin, darkly.

"Ooh," gasp the crowd. "Hmmm."

Next to Martin, Adrian Edmundson is stooped and unhappy looking, addressing a smaller but equally sympathetic crowd.

"You know what I've been doing for the last three months?" he says. "Meeting booksellers. And being nice to booksellers. That's what I'm doing now. If someone said to me at school `What would you like to do when you grow up?', I wouldn't have replied `Be nice to booksellers'."

"Why are you here?" I asked. "Are you up for anything?"

"No," replies Adrian with genuine sorrow. "I'm here because booksellers are here. My PR said that it would be important to come, because of all the booksellers. You know. Shopkeepers. I'm giving an award."

"Oh?" I say.

"Yes," he replies. "Best Chain. You know. Waterstone's, Dillons, that sort of thing."

And, behind me, stands a very nervous looking Lisa Leeson, the wife of jailed Nick, whose autobiography is about to be released, with much secrecy.

"Is it any good?" I asked.

"You'll have to wait until next month," she replies, demurely, "to find that out."

"Is it racy?" I ask.

"You have to wait and see," she winks.

"What's it called?"

"Ah, ha, ha," says Lisa. "You'll have to wait and see."

"Actually," whispers Lisa's agent, "You're allowed to tell him what it's called."

"Oh," says Lisa. "Vogue Trader".

"Well, it's all very exciting," I say politely. Then there's a long pause, out of the corner of my eye, I see Lisa's agent nodding covertly to Lisa.

"Yes," says Lisa. "It is very exciting."

And, as the ceremony is about to begin, I notice Delia Smith in one corner, standing alone.

"It must be very exciting," I say, "for you, with your fruit and veg and so on, to be up against Martin Amis, with his ... you know... "

"His what?" says Delia, jumping to the defensive.

"You know," I say. "His metaphysical murders and galaxies and stuff. Whereas you deal more in cranberries."

"Well, I don't expect to win," snaps Delia, "if that's what you're saying. I didn't even know I was nominated until you just told me."

"I wasn't trying to be mean," I say. "I was just curious."

"Yeah, well," mutters Delia. "Book people are wonderful people. Publishers, writers, editors, printers. They're all wonderful."

"Printers?" I say.

"Yes, printers," says Delia. "I'm sitting on a table with some wonderful printers. And now..." she gives me a cruel look, "I must go and sit with them."