THE LITERATOR

What next for Harper?

It is described as `the last significant step' in a year-long review of HarperCollins taken by its new management team (where have we heard that before?) as its parent company News Corp writes off $270m. The announcement, made in New York, was accompanied by a statement saying, once again, that HarperCollins is not for sale. Naturally, there is some scepticism. Some literary agents believe that such a huge write-off, which offers the new management a clean slate, is evidence of Murdoch's long-term good intentions. Others feel that the decks are being swept clean in order to make HarperCollins a better buy.

Wanted: a best seller

Dorling Kindersley, meanwhile, is making around eighty staff redundant from its multimedia division, a move which went some way to restoring City confidence in a company whose share price has halved over the past eighteen months. And at Faber, where much of the last eighteen months was spent in a search for a replacement for Robert McCrum, the editorial director who departed for the books pages of the Observer, pre-tax profits are down by a whopping 57 per cent. The publisher, which reinvented itself for the 1980s, looks once again to be in need of a makeover. New Managing Director Toby Faber, who has taken over from Matthew Evans ascribes the downturn to the lack of a bestseller.

A question of conviction

Court TV made US attorney Barry Scheck into a celebrity, first as a member of OJ's `dream team' and, more recently, in the Louise Woodward trial. Now, inevitably, he is to write a book. Actual Innocence has already been bought by Doubleday US for $500,000 and Scheck has recently been in London, auditioning UK contenders. Working with Peter Nuefeld, his partner at New York's Cardozo Law School, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jim Dwyer, who will actually write the book, Scheck will use DNA analysis methods to demonstrate how a number of past convictions would not stick if subjected to modern scientific scrutiny. OJ will probably make it in to the book but Woodward will be left on the cutting room floor.

Flower power's hour

Still looking for something on which to spend those Christmas tokens? How about the autobiography of Ravi Shankar, the sitar player whose `discovery', by George Harrison during the first flush of flower power brought him to a much larger audience than he might otherwise have enjoyed. Raga Mala is, in fact, edited by Harrison, who's also provided a foreword and dozens of photographs. Violinist Yehudi Menuhin has contributed an introduction.

The book comes to us courtesy of Genesis Publications of Guildford, Surrey, a company in which Harrison has an interest. Indeed, Genesis published his own autobiography, I. Me, Mine, as well as that by Derek Taylor, the famed Beatles publicist who sadly died last year. Raga Mala is a snip at pounds 195. Each of the 2,000 copies - bound in Bangalore raw silk in a choice of four striking colours - is numbered and signed by Shankar himself. The whole is presented in a custom-made box which also includes two CDs and `a packet of finest quality Special Durbar Agarbathi incense sticks. Who said the sixties are over?

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