The Literator


A week is a long time in politics. With the People's Princess finally laid to rest, the Diana industry is now moving into high gear following the measured response of the first days after her death. Blake Publishing, which had hastily withdrawn paparazzo memoir Dicing with Di from the shelves and which was last week declaring emotionally that it was "too soon" to be discussing any books, is this week rushing ahead with a collection of people's tributes by Nicholas Davies. Anthony Holben is penning a 10,000-word appreciation for a glossy book destined for the Christmas market and published by Abury Press which, in happier circumstances, brought us The Sloane Ranger's Handbook. Ladybird, whose 50th birthday was marked by a visit from Diana, this week releases a children's tribute.

THE RESPONSE in the US has been no less high-key, and the two Andrew Morton titles are heading back into the bestseller lists, as they are here. But, until the news from Paris, the feeling from the US publisher who was about to remainder 16,000 copies of Nicholas Davies's book Diana: The Lonely Princess was that "interest in royalty has definitely been on the wane." No doubt Kitty Kelley's efforts alone would have been enough to reawaken interest. One million copies of her latest blockbuster, The Royals, was already under secure guard in a warehouse when the tragedy occurred. There are still no plans for a British publication but, as with Spycatcher, copies will find their way in. And, of course, there's also the Internet. US publication is still set for 23 September. The Royal Family must be waiting with baited breath: can it take any more knocks? A spokesman says that future printings may include an afterword. For the moment, the author's only obvious concession to events is the removal of the National Anthem from her answerphone.

MEANWHILE, publishers are also racing to pay tributes to Mother Teresa. Collections of her thoughts and speeches proliferate - no religious list is complete without at least one book by her. HarperCollins long ago got lucky with the authorised biography written by Kathryn Spink, whose friendship with the nun extended over some 15 years. Mother Teresa agreed to co-operate so long as publication did not take place until after her death. "No one thinks of the pen while reading the letter," said the nun. "They only want to know the mind of the person who wrote the letter. That's exactly what I am in God's hand - a little pencil." Mother Teresa: The Authorized Biography will be released next month.

AND that's not all. George Solti's sudden passing, also at a grand age - and fortunately after he'd finished his memoirs - has prompted Chatto & Windus to rush out Solti on Solti, originally scheduled for Christmas. Let's hope no more of the great and the good die just yet: there simply isn't room in the bestseller lists.

TOMORROW, in St Paul's Church, Covent Garden, literary luvvies will rub shoulders with film luvvies at a memorial service for Helene Hanff, the American whose letters to a London bookseller, Marks & Co, became a bestselling book, 84 Charing Cross Road, and then a surprisingly successful film. The letters began in the 1940s and their publication made the shop one of the most famous in the world. Too small to attract any of today's chain booksellers, the premises would make an ideal specialist bookseller. The service begins at noon and all are welcome.

WITH Michael Drosnin's study The Bible Code still selling well, this month comes a rebuttal. In The Truth Behind the Bible Code (Macmillan), Dr Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist, mathematician and theologist, argues that Drosnin's book is facile and inaccurate, merely drawing on information that has been available for decades. Satinover's account is "fully researched and documented" and claims to test their "predictions", from Medieval events to the Gulf war, providing "the evidence believers and sceptics alike are looking for, and will forever change your views about God, faith and fate."

CARDINAL Basil Hume is also addressing believers and sceptics in a book published this week by Darton, Longman & Todd, the Catholic Publishing House. Endearingly titled Basil in Blunderland, it is the book he has always wanted to write. The former Abbot of Ampleforth tells us that "it is a fact that my spiritual life is more a wandering in Blunderland than a resting and relaxing in Wonderland. I would guess most of us would say the same of ourselves."

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