Pembroke: Smith's snubs eroticism

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WH Smith has displayed a prudish streak over the launch of a racy range of audio books. Next Monday sees the launch of Erotic Classics, a selection of raunchy titles such as Emmanuelle read by Sylvia Kristel, Tropic of Cancer read by Ian McShane and Karma Sutra read by Gabrielle Drake. But although the steamy books will be available in branches of Waterstone's and Virgin, Smith's has decided to spare its customers' blushes and not stock them.

'We feel they are not appropriate for our range,' a buttoned-up Smith's type says. 'We already sell over 900 audio books (Jane Eyre, Noddy goes to Toytown, etc) and we are concerned that there is no age classification on the tapes.'

The fact that anyone could buy some of the paperbacks, such as Tropic of Cancer, in its stores does not appear to strike Smith's as a double standard.

The engine is already revving over at Formula One, the new motor industry research group set up by Paddy and Del Barrett, the brother- and-sister motor analysts team who left broker Albert E Sharp. On to my desk screeches the first issue of Motor Analyst, their monthly commentary on all matters motoring.

And a highly stylised document it is too. With sections entitled Steering Column, a guest column, Newstrack, Indicators, On the Starting Grid and Formula Fun, a monthly competition section, the Barretts have clearly decided to bash readers over the head with the pun. 'Well, you might as well make the most of it,' says Del.

Also buzzing is Mike Burton, the ebullient former England rugby star who now runs Mike Burton Travel, a ticket agency that specialises in sports events. He has just returned from South Africa, where he is arranging trips to the World Cup next year. In 10 days he visited Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg but is now turning his thoughts to a rather more gentle sport than rugby - netball.

The rugged Mr Burton is a key player in the 9th World Netball Championships, which come to Birmingham next year. He is helping to organise the International Centenary Challenge where 3,000 women supporters will compete in a special tournament. 'We've got sections for juniors, veterans and scratch teams that have never played together before,' he says. 'It could be a bit of a headache.'

The population of Kazakhstan are clearly developing refined tastes. Remy Cointreau, the brandy company, has just signed a distribution agreement to flog the upmarket liquor in the former Eastern bloc state.

Is there a market for this? 'No, not at the moment,' a spokesman says. 'But we think there will be. Kazakhstan is quite a rich country.'