The Literator

WH Smith is no Wonderland

Whether the media outcry over A M Homes' novel The End of Alice will be sufficient to propel it into the best seller lists remains to be seen. If it does chart, it would seem reasonable to speculate that many of the buyers will be the the wrong sort of people buying it for all the wrong reasons. Had the NSPCC not made such a fuss, The End of Alice would have gone the way of much - probably most - new fiction: quietly, if not silently, to that knacker's yard of publishing, the remainder dealer.

On one count, at least, the record needs setting straight: WH Smith have not banned the book, as was widely reported. Rather, they took a purely commercial decision months ago (publishers' lists are presented at the chain's Swindon headquarters way ahead of publication) that Homes' novel was simply not one for their customers, who want mainstream fiction by Jilly and Jeffrey and Joanna and safe non-fiction by Delia and Michael. Moral grounds did not come into it. As a spokesman for the WHS said, "basically this title is not for our market".

The End of Alice will be available in Waterstone's, whose turnover of obscure fiction is second to none. Waterstone's remains - for the moment at least - part of the Smith empire, so to have taken the high moral ground on the one hand while raking in the cash with the other would have been hypocritical, to say the least. No doubt many independent booksellers in the Shires will also decline to stock it and some may even ban it as, no doubt, did many booksellers in the American Bible Belt. But WHS does not regard itself as a guardian of the nation's morals. Nor could it, given the magazines that reside on its top shelves.

Waterstone's Noble Gesture

Meanwhile, last month's announcement, under pressure of a poor performance and a takeover bid by former failed Smith employee Tim Waterstone, that the Waterstone's chain is to be demerged, is fuelling speculation that the move will provide US book-selling giant Barnes & Noble with just the sort of opening it is looking for.

The 106 stores are the jewel in Smith's increasingly tarnished crown, with sales of pounds 200m and operating profits of pounds 20m. B&N stores are glorious temples to books, providing a comfortable browsing environment and wide and deep discounting, and it has long been known that the chain wishes to expand into the UK market. Earlier this year, a B&N team were reported to be prospecting possible sites. But a major start-up from scratch was always going to be difficult and a few weeks ago B&N's rivals, Borders, part of the K-Mart group, upped the ante by buying Books, etc.

Barnes & Noble will not want to be outdone because, back home in the US, competition is fierce. When Borders advertised a major author, signing in their magnificent World Trade Center store, B&N upstaged them by running a full-page ad in the New York Times offering the book at a 50 per cent discount. Things could get really interesting ...

Horror in advance

A few weeks ago, Penguin US stomped up around $100m for a Tom Clancy package that included world rights on several books and an interactive games initiative. Now one of the world's most prolific authors, the famously reclusive Stephen King, is reportedly asking $17m for American rights to just one novel, working title: The Bag of Bones. After negotiations with King's long-time publisher, one Penguin US, broke down, his agent Arthur Greene began circulating the 1000-page manuscript to various publishers.

It seems that although King sells well - Desperation shipped 1,542,077 copies in the US; The Regulators, sold under the name of King's "twin" Richard Bachman, some 1,200,000 - he doesn't sell that well. John Grisham's The Runaway Jury sold 2,775,000 and Clancy's Executive Orders 2,371,602, for example. King earned $35m for his last three-novel contract with Penguin. At $17m for one, it simply doesn't add up.

Still, other publishers seem prepared to shell out. Grove Atlantic are reportedly about to come up with "a creative offer", while Bantam Doubleday Dell - who last year paid over the odds to acquire Dean Koontz from Knopf - are also working on the back of envelopes. Meanwhile, king's UK publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, look on with bated breath.

Tolkien treat

Fans of J R R Tolkien are in for a real treat, for in January HarperCollins are publishing a previously unpublished novella, Roverandom. Dating from 1925 and written for J R R's son Michael, who had just lost his dog on Filey beach during a family holiday, the book tells the story of Rover, a dog turned into a toy by a wizard and then transported to the moon along the path of light it makes shining over the sea. Giving him wings, the man in the moon renames him Roverandom and he enjoys a series of big adventures before returning to the wizard and asking him to undo the spell.

The book's existence has long been known about by publishers, but the family did not want to cash in on the Tolkien name. Now, with the author's centenary behind them and Lord of the Rings named "Book of the Century", they agreed that the time was right.

Roverandom will be published as a pounds l2.99 hardback featuring five "illustrations by Tolkien himself and an introduction by Christina Scull and Wayne G Hammond, authors of J R R Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator.

Write for Life

Aspiring writers have a chance to win pounds 2,000 and have their work critiqued by Alan Coren and John Mortimer among others. "Write for Life" is all part of the Cancer Research Campaign's 75th anniversary celebrations and is the idea of Worthing Steyne Inner Wheel.

Stories should be between 1000 and 2000 words, poems no more than 40 lines, and entrants can write on any subject. The closing date is 28 February and entries cost pounds 5.

Application forms from Cancer Research Campaign Shops nationwide, or call 0171-224 1333.

Voices
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond delivers his speech at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Spring Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland April 12, 2014.
voices
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
weird newsMan live-photographs cracking of mysterious locked box on Reddit
Sport
Oliver Giroud kisses the Arsenal badge after giving the Gunners the lead
sportArsenal 3 West Ham 1: Two goals from the German striker and one piece of brilliance from Giroud puts the Gunners back above Everton
News
Plans to decriminalise non-payment of television licence fees would cost the BBC £500m according to estimates drawn up within the Corporation
people
News
weird news
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'
filmAs 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star James Dean perfected his moody act
News
Obesity surgery in rats has been found to change the way the body processes alcohol
news
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk
artThe Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
Life & Style
US Airways has been at the centre of a Twitter storm after it responded to customer complaints with a graphic sexual image
techUS Airways takes an interesting approach to customer service
Arts & Entertainment
Philip Arditti as Yossarian and Christopher Price as Milo Minderbinder in Northern Stage's 'Catch-22'
theatre
Arts & Entertainment
The Purple Wedding: Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell tie the knot
TV The second episode of the hit series featured a surprise for viewers
Life & Style
Back to nature: women with body issues have found naked yoga sessions therapeutic
lifeDoing poses in the altogether is already big in the US, and now it’s landed here – in mixed classes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Travel Consultant - Aberdeen

£18000 - £27000 per annum: Flight Centre Limited: Join one of the biggest trav...

Business Development Manager

£22000 - £40000 per annum + Proven Yr 1 OTE £40,000: Flight Centre Limited: Ex...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £50000 per annum + Uncapped Commission + Benefits: Corporate Travelle...

Business Development Manager

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Flight Centre Limited: Business Development Manager...

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?