The Literator


It was always just a matter of time and this week time was called. Creditors of Pavilion Books - the company founded by Tim Rice and Michael Parkinson and which went into receivership for (almost literally) five minutes earlier this year to be bought by Collins & Brown for just pounds 875,000 - are finally beginning to ask awkward questions. While printers who got their fingers burned are coy about talking, disgruntled authors are beginning to speak out, either directly or through their agents.

Among them is actress and cookery writer Madhur Jaffrey, whose agents, the heavyweight Rogers, Coleridge & White, are considering taking action. So, too, Tim Abbott, author of a book on Oasis which was a big Christmas seller for Pavilion.

The awful truth dawned at a recent creditors' meeting that authors will not be paid for their last 18 months of book sales. All available monies, just under pounds l.5m, will go to the bank: unsecured creditors -- surprise, surprise - get nothing. So much for Managing Director Colin Webb's assertion that authors would always be "looked after".

NOVEMBER 29, 1957: "I'm going to hate being away from home." July 2, 1960: "Thanks very much for giving me a good home and a happy, hectic childhood that I never tire of remembering." Who do you think wrote those lines in two of his innumerable letters home to "Mom"? Donny Osmond? Tony Blair? William Hague? Prepare for a surprise - for it's no more than the father of gonzo journalism himself, Hunter S Thompson, whose 700-page collection of letters, The Proud Highway, covering the years 1955-1967, Bloomsbury publish next month.

It seems Thompson was a keen correspondent and recipients of his missives include Lyndon Johnson, Tom Wolfe and Joan Baez, his next-door neighbour in Big Sur. One doesn't expect the hell-raising author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Better than Sex to have spent quite so much time writing home, although the cynical might say it was all down to cupboard love, for Virginia Thompson often sent her son money.

Whatever, his letters are a fascinating footnote to an era and it's interesting to note that his first use of the phrase "fear and loathing" is in a letter to William Kennedy, publisher of the San Juan Star and a future Pulitzer Prize-winning author, on the day of JFK's assassination when he notes that "we now enter the era of the shitrain, President Johnson and the hardening of the arteries".

Thompson has accepted an invitation to come to Britain for publication, though he is worried that the long journey will aggravate his sciatica. He will stay at Claridges. So much for the counterculture...

BRUCE Grobbelaar and John Fashanu may be celebrating their victory at Winchester, where they were cleared of match-fixing. But publishers are not so happy. Fourth Estate has been forced to abandon plans to publish Anil Bhoyrul's biography, John Fashanu: For the Sake of a Penny. Last year Macmillan dropped Chris Vincent's book on Grobbelaar, titled Giving the Game Away. Both publishers seem to have forgotten that defendants are innocent until proven guilty.

IT'S INTERESTING that MPs, usually so keen to show their erudition, are currently keen to show how trendy they are. In Dillons' second annual poll of MPs' reading tastes, Irvine Welch's Trainspotting was book of the year - as indeed it was for Jane Asher, usually so pure in word and deed. As to their favourite books of all time, the Bible is closely followed by Catch 22 and War and Peace. The book most feel they ought to have read but haven't is Will Hutton's The State We're In.

AS WE HEAD inexorably toward the next century, what word best sums up this one? Tough one, isn't it? Collins Dictionaries this autumn launches a campaign to find the most apposite word in a poll called "Define the Century", to be conducted via the nation's bookshops. Anyone buying a Collins dictionary will be asked to put in a word, so to speak, and the winners will be announced in January, drawn from those who vote for the most popular word. To get you off to a good start, Collins is producing a list of 100 words, one for each year since 1897, which they believe reflect the tenor of the times. For example, bikini for 1946 and psychedelic for 1956 ... aren't they 11 years early with that one?

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