The Feral Beast: Novelist's friends snub 'Observer'

Leading authors have taken against The Observer, after one of its journalists went on a fishing expedition for colour on the novelist Alan Hollinghurst.

"Observer journalist phones to ask about my friend Hollinghurst," writes Philip Hensher on Facebook. "Hasn't read the book, about which I am (naturally) supposed to brief him in detail. Hasn't spoken to Alan, but believes he's a 'recluse'. (Ha, ha). Also wants me to do all this and spill the beans on my dear old friend.... Make my excuses and put the phone down." "How vile!" adds novelist Amanda Craig, demanding to know the name of the hack in question. Who could it be?

O'Toole survives curse of 'The Oldie'

The Oldie pulled off a coup getting Peter O'Toole to swing by for its monthly lunch at Simpsons-in-the-Strand last Tuesday. But they had to be careful with the seating plan, as journalist John "the curse" McEntee was also invited. McEntee interviewed Henry Cooper for The Oldie's "Still With Us" column last month, only for the boxer to die the day it came out. He also once killed off Ireland's oldest man, by getting him out of bed to pose for a photograph. "We didn't want the curse to strike this time," says organiser Claire Daly. "So we sat them well apart."

Custard pies thrown at red-tops

Andrew Bridgen bas been comprehensively done over after being named as the Tory MP accused of assaulting a researcher after a few drinks. But he can take some comfort in the fact that two newspapers were also humiliated in the reporting of his story. Both The Sun and the Daily Mail were confident that Mr Bridgen works part-time as a clown. Sadly, this is not true – it was inserted on Wikipedia as the story broke.

Spec's editor lunch has a taste of sage

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson was spotted having lunch with Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, who was once deputy editor at the Spec under Dominic Lawson. Is Fraser looking to pick up some tips? "Fraser is absolutely charming and we had a lovely lunch," Anne tells me. "He treated me like a great sage, though in fact I am only 10 years older than him." Fraser was 36 when he became editor, though Applebaum was an astonishing 24 when she joined as number two.

Sweet and sour sides of Hislop

Novelist Victoria Hislop seems mild-mannered, but being married to Private Eye editor Ian must have rubbed off a little. She tells me she spent some time wanting "to string up" a well-known female journalist, who wrote a bad review of her novel. She won't tell me who it is, and exhaustive archive searches only throw up glowing reviews of her two novels, The Island and The Return. However, she tells me she learned more from that review than any other, and has just handed in the manuscript for her third, The Thread. She celebrated by reading Beryl Bainbridge. "I read Master Georgie," she says. "It was delicious. Like eating a tub of Ben & Jerry's."

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