The Literator; INSIDE PUBLISHING

Click to follow
The Independent Online
CHARLES has stopped fantasising about Tampax and talks instead about education, and it's so long since Prince Philip has said anything about anything that one fears he has taken a vow of silence. Even Prince Andrew seems to be behaving himself. It must all be part of the relaunch of the royals as decent, caring individuals who earn their keep. Squeaky clean, like New Labour.

Everything has been going so well that it seems almost churlish of anyone to spoil it. But alas, trouble is on horizon - and not in the form of Diana or Camilla or Fergie. Kitty Kelley, scourge of Sinatra and Nancy Reagan, has finished her latest biography, To Be Royal, and printing of the first edition of 1 million copies is currently under way at a secret location in the United States, where publication is set for 23 September.

It's six years since the publication of Kelley's acid biography of Nancy Reagan, who threatened to sue and then wisely decided against. No one has ever successfully sued Kelley, not even Frank Sinatra. The Royal Family, of course, never sues. The publishers, Warner Books, which allegedly paid a $5m advance for the biography, refuse to be drawn on any aspect of the book or its publication, though they say there is, as yet, no British deal.

For her part, Kelley, at the time of Andrew Morton's first book of revelations, claimed she had uncovered five big stories that no one else had come close to, and certainly she has been back and forth to London numerous times over the last few years, leaving no stone unturned - and ultimately no turn unstoned.

MEANWHILE, there's a mysterious announcement in the HarperCollins catalogue which may or may not be related. The publishers have spent three years working on "a secret project which will entirely recast our knowledge of the lives and relationships of some of the most famous and infamous individuals in post-war world history ... We are confident that the book will make newspaper headlines not just in the UK but around the world."

WHICH IS MORE than can be said for The Collected Speeches of Margaret Thatcher. "Here for the first time in a single volume are all the significant speeches of Margaret Thatcher's career" from 1959, and her maiden speech as MP for Finchley to 1996, and the Keith Joseph Memorial Address. The book goes on and on and on - to 704 pages - and HarperCollins claims it is "an indispensable volume". But only if you are looking for an alternative to counting sheep.

Surprisingly few commentators seem to have noticed that Britain's handover of the last chunk of Empire coincides with the 50th anniversary of the loss of India, an event that's already been marked by a rerun of The Jewel in the Crown. One of the stars of that, Tim Pigott-Smith, who played Captain Merrick, this week publishes Out of India, the diary he kept while filming, from his arrival at Delhi Airport, with its look of "a doss-house at rush hour", to his departure a year later, when he experienced "a sense of impending loss".

Meanwhile, Sunil Khilnani, the New Delhi-born historian who teaches at Birkbeck College, looks back on the 50 years of independence, at The Idea of India, as he calls his study, and asks whether India can survive its own successes. The "idea", he argues, was to unite a huge, diverse and poor society and transform it into a modern state. But while that idea gave Indians genuine political freedom, it has left most of them in poverty. No doubt the wisdom of Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy, will once again be called into question.

AFTER HAY and before Christmas, two rather "proper" literary festivals, comes the fun and genuine diversity of the Edinburgh Book Festival, now to become an annual (rather than biennial) event. This year's do runs from 9 to 25 August and takes place, as ever, in Charlotte Square Gardens. This year, there are 380 visiting authors and 400 events - discussions, workshops, readings, lectures and demonstrations of cookery, gardening and alternative health, the latter in a tent sponsored by Neal's Yard Remedies. Children can have tea with Postman Pat, enter the Asterix Challenge and meet the cast of the Famous Five, including Timmy the dog. Grown-up guests include Margaret Atwood, George Melly, Roy Hattersley, Garrison Keillor, Jane Asher and Michael Holroyd, who will speak on the topic "Living with Great Men". For a full programme and booking details, contact the Scottish Book Centre, at 137 Dundee Street, Edinburgh EH11 1BG.

GOOD NEWS for John Mortimer fans. Despite failing eyesight, the rumpled writer is hard at work on a new political satire, a sequel to Paradise Postponed and Titmuss Regained. The Sound of Trumpets, set in new Labour Britain shortly after the election, opens with a Tory MP, dead in his swimming-pool in highly questionable circumstancesn

Comments