Julian Hall's Edinburugh Festival diary

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The Independent Culture

Lord Owen captivated his Book Festival audience with vignettes from his new book In Sickness and in Power, which shows how world leaders' decisions taken over the past 100 years have been affected by their health and how their illnesses have affected world events. His take on the Shah of Iran gave the most food for thought: "Had I known, as Foreign Secretary, between 1977-79, that he had leukaemia, we could have packed him off to Switzerland, installed a Regency government and perhaps avoided problems down the line like the Ayatollah through to al-Qa'ida."

Since her show began last week, Joan Rivers has wasted no time in researching the comedic talent on offer at the Fringe, and has proved that you're never too old to become a groupie. The septuagenarian legend made a point of waiting for Josh Howie after attending his show. Rivers was equally enthusiastic about the corkscrew-mopped James Dowdeswell, when she was handed his flyer. "Isn't he cute?" she was heard to say, adding, "I love his hair."

Tony Parsons ranged over a number of topics while discussing his latest book, My Favourite Wife, including the curse of chick-lit. He expressed disbelief that men up and down the country were saying to their girlfriends: "Why don't you write one of those books, darling? Knock one out over the weekend." However, he was quick to defend the mother of chick-lit, Helen Fielding, saying that Bridget Jones came from something both true and real, before adding: "I don't even think that Dan Brown thinks, 'they're going to lap up this rubbish'. I'm sure he's got a tear in his eye as he writes."