The Literator: Inside Publishing

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Lured to Orion

As the Orion Group heads towards a stock market listing, chief executive Anthony Cheetham has added a publishing heavyweight to the group's portfolio. The much-respected Malcolm Edwards has been lured away from HarperCollins, where he is deputy managing director of the Trade Division, to become managing director and publisher of Orion Books, a newly created post which acknowledges the group's dramatic growth from sales of pounds l0m five years ago to pounds 40m today. Orion - which comprises Millennium, Orion Business Books, Orion Children's Books, Orion Media and Orion itself - accounts for around 20 per cent of that. The appointment puts Edwards in charge of such big-name publishers as Judith Elliott, Jane Wood and Rosie Cheetham, Anthony's ex - but not the feisty and mercurial Susan Lamb, who famously moaned that she made "only pounds 600,000" following the sale of Century, Cheetham's earlier company of which she was also a founding director.

Edwards, who began his career in Harrow Library, writing SF reviews on the side, entered publishing via Gollancz, where he discovered such cult writers as Terry Pratchett and William Gibson. At HarperCollins, he looked after the likes of J G Ballard, Tom Clancy, Michael Dobbs and Barbara Taylor Bradford and was for nine years a calm constant in an ever-changing world. In 1986, he was named Editor of the Year at the British Book Awards, the book trade's Oscars.

Felicity in print

Good news for middle-aged males everywhere: actress Felicity Kendal, a former "rear of the year" and a woman guaranteed to excite the most somnolent of men, is at work on her memoirs. Not in time for this Christmas, I'm afraid - Michael Joseph won't be publishing until October next year.

A lover of fiction

Women have always been among James Patterson's most ardent fans, attracted to his thrillers by their thoughtful black detective hero Alex Cross, a widower who cares for his mother and his kids. None more so than his wife, whom he married earlier this year.

In Britain to promote his latest Cross thriller, Cat and Mouse, a US bestseller just released here by Headline, Patterson revealed that when he'd first met her, she'd been reluctant to date him because he'd had neither wife nor children, omissions she regarded with suspicion. Then she read Cat and Mouse, fell in love with Alex and called up his creator to suggest they go out that night. Six months later they married. Now they are expecting their first child. Patterson, a former advertising executive, is shamelessly delighted.

A life of Laurie Lee

Valerie Grove, biographer of Dodie Smith, creator of 101 Dalmations, is shortly to begin writing an authorised life of Laurie Lee, who died earlier this year. She has been signed up by Tony Lacey, the Penguin publisher who worked with Lee for several years.

Rude food in verse

Esther Rantzen was always holding mis-shapen fruit and veg to camera, inviting our smutty laughter. Not for nothing do second-year schoolboys have to practise with a condom and courgette. Now comes a poetry collection which, in the words of chef Nigel Slater who's written an introduction, is "a celebration of the erotic pleasure of food"; Eating Your Cake... and Having It, edited by Ann Grey and published by Fatchance Press of Sheepwash, Devon. There's crime writer John Harvey on the delights of "Safeway" (Resnick, his detective hero, is always making serious sandwiches), Christina Rossetti's biographer Kathleen Jones on "Witchcraft", a celebration of chocolate desserts, and children's author Myra Schneider on the delights of "Root Vegetable Stew", not to mentions paeans of praise to fish, cheese and even custard.

Hot and Cold

Charles Frazier, the 47-year-old American academic and horse breeder whose debut novel Cold Mountain has sold some 30,000 copies in Britain since its publication this summer and a cool one million in the US, has won America's much-coveted National Book Award for Fiction. He beat off the favourite, Underworld, by Don DeLillo. Anthony Minghella has already paid $1.25m for screen rights. As you might expect of an American Civil War epic, hopeful industry watchers close their eyes and dream of Gone with the Wind.

Dorling down

Bad news for those who bought shares in Dorling Kindersley, whose chairman, Peter Kindersley, was not so long ago predicting the death of the book, trampled by the ever-onward march of new technology. This week, the company put out its third profits warning in 12 months, during which time shares have halved in value. Noting that profits for the first half of this year will be lower than the pounds 6.8m achieved in the same period last year, he blamed the strength of sterling, changes in the multimedia market and the disappointing performance of DK Family Library, the publisher's direct sales business. Some 5,000 reps resigned when it emerged that DK was unable to fulfil orders. Many in the industry have long felt that Dorling Kindersley was overly smug and will be well pleased to see the smile wiped off its corporate face.