The Literator: INSIDE PUBLISHING

Given the national outpouring of grief, publishers have for once been relatively reluctant to announce fast-track books commemorating the short life and tragic death of the Princess of Wales. A spokesman for Blake Publishing, which has brought us such literary milestones as the memoirs of Fergie's soothsayer and those of the fraudster Darius Guppy, has said "the idea of getting involved at this early stage is distasteful". Ed Victor, possibly London's most louche literary agent, intoned gravely: "I think there is going to be a convocation of ghouls around this thing. I have decided not to be part of it." For this week, at least.

Inevitably, however, Andrew Morton has been hard at work updating his magnum opus, Diana: Her True Story (sales of which stood at four million before her death) which O'Mara Books will have in the shops early next month. The same publisher is also preparing a new book, Diana: Her Life in Pictures. Over at Weidenfeld & Nicolson, midnight oil is burning furiously during the preparation of Diana, Princess of Wales: A Tribute, which will feature photographs by Tim Graham, who took the celebrated engagement photo and many other official shots. Tim Corby, a former court correspondent for the Press Association and PR for the Prince's Trust, is writing the text. That book will be on the shops this Friday and a donation from every copy sold will be made to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Trust. Mirror man James Whitaker is writing "a tribute to the Princess as a mother and a woman of the Nineties", which Quadrillion will publish next month as The People's Princess. Diana's last great campaign, against landmines, is to be commemorated in a book by former Daily Telegraph editor William Deedes, who accompanied her on trips to Angola and Bosnia. Macmillan will donate the profits to the anti-landmines campaign.

In the weeks and months ahead, there are certain to be other books and, in due course, an official life. And there'll be offers a-plenty for Richard Kay, the Daily Mail journalist favoured by the Princess in the last year or so of her life. He spoke to the Princess just hours before the start of her fateful evening out and is thus the possessor of her final interview.

Meanwhile, the Internee Bookshop (www.bookpages.co.uk) is promising that all profits from Diana book sales will go to the London Lighthouse, one of the Princess's favourite charities.

RUPERT MURDOCH has been saying that HarperCollins, the book publishing part of his empire, is not for sale. Yet this week's announcement that the company's worldwide turnover for the year to 30 June was $737m, down from $932 for the previous 12 months, may serve to change his mind. Operating profit dropped a staggering $56m to just $12m. Senior executives ascribed the figures to "generally difficult conditions in trade publishing, both in America and overseas, and to the restructuring of the book division, which resulted in 420 job losses and cancelled contracts.

Meanwhile, one of the HarperCollins brand names, Barbara Taylor Bradford, has quit HarperCollins for Doubleday, which published her first novel, A Woman of Substance. Robert Bradford, the novelist's husband and manager, reported "too much turmoil" at HarperCollins and missed opportunities in promoting her backlist.

A CRISIS: this year's Booker Prize, scheduled for 14 October, clashes with the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, international publishing's biggest trade show. The six shortlisted authors are traditionally accompanied by a phalanx of senior staff from their publishers on their big night out. After the ceremony, everyone goes off to celebrate or commiserate with appropriate amounts of alcohol.

It appears that nobody noticed the clash until recently, despite the fact that Frankfurt dates are fixed some five years in advance and the Booker some two years. Frankfurt is rather late this year - it always has to accommodate the Jewish holiday - so Booker staff may not have realised that a clash was likely, The problem now is how still tired and emotional publishers can get themselves to Frankfurt in time for the 9am start the next morning. City Airport is just down the road from the Guildhall - perhaps they should hire a plane or two and fly straight out. After all, Duty Free will make their celebrations cheapern

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