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ONE HUNDRED years ago this month, "a tall, well-built young man in his late forties, with bright red hair, a trim beard and close-set blue eyes", alighted from a hansom cab at the offices of Constable & Co in Parliament Street. The man's business card announced him as Bram Stoker, MA, Barrister at Law. The Irishman had come to sign a contract for his novel, The Un-Dead. Archibald Constable, who had founded his publishing company just seven years earlier, was not sure he was doing the right thing in buying the book and he hedged his bets. Stoker would receive no royalties on the first 1,000 copies sold but would get 1/6d - 25 per cent - thereafter.

A century on, there can be no one who doesn't know the legend of Dracula, as Stoker's novel was rechristened. Last week, the anniversary was marked by the publication of The Un-Dead: The Legend of Bram Stoker and Dracula by Peter Haining and Peter Tremayne and a party in the suitably gothic crypt of St Martin's-in-the-Field. Among the guests were Noel Dodds, great-grandson of Stoker, and actors John Forbes Robertson, Caroline Munroe, Aida Young and Michael Ripper, all of whom have starred in the numerous Dracula films, and Roy Skeggs. The latter, chairman of Hammer, recalled how he joined the film company 40 years ago on a four-week contract. The earliest films were reviled as "obnoxious" and "degrading". Eighty-five years after Stoker's death, both Skeggs and Dracula live on. I wonder what happened to Stoker's first book, The Duties of Clerks of Petty Sessions in Ireland?

BARONESS JAMES of Holland Park, better known as PD James, queen of crime, is finally to make the transfer to the big screen. Although most of her Dalgliesh novels have been adapted for television, no James novel has become a feature film. Until now. After protracted negotiations, LA-based Beacon Pictures has optioned The Children of Men, James's one excursion into science fiction, and will begin shooting next year, though there's no word as yet on either the writer or the stars. Meanwhile, the 73-year- old novelist is correcting the final proofs of her next opus, A Certain Justice, due to be published this autumn.

ANNA PASTERNAK, the journalist who made headlines a couple of years back with Princess in Love, which besmirched the Bloomsbury list, is planning her rebirth as a novelist. She is hard at work on a novel of contemporary life for which she has secured an advance from Richard Cohen Books, the fledgling independent in which Lord Archer and Edwina Currie have shares. Publication is a little way off, probably next year, and Pasternak is hoping that critics will take her seriously and eschew the easy route of simply reminding readers that she helped James Hewitt rat on Princess Diana.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME may well be both the most bought and most unread book of all time. But if Stephen Hawking remains simply a talking point, other more accessible scientists - Richard Dawkin and Steve Jones, for example - are actually read. For the moment at least, science sells and the burgeoning Science Masters series launched a couple of years back by Weidenfeld & Nicolson is evidence of our continuing interest. Two new titles will surely look good on the coffee table. Susan A Greenfield's The Human Brain: A Guided Tour aims to introduce "not just non-biologists but non-students to what lies within their skull" - appropriate in the 1990s, designated by the then President George Bush as "the Decade of the Brain". Based on her 1994 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, the book explores the different regions of the brain and also points out that size has nothing to do with intelligence: an elephant's brain, for example, is five times bigger than our own but that doesn't mean the elephant is more intelligent.

And size brings us to another book in the series: Why Is Sex Fun? Jared Diamond argues that the male member is unnecessarily large as compared to, say, that of the orangutan, which sexually outperforms its human counterpart. Professor Diamond suggests that humans are sexually inefficient, our practices wasteful of energy and counter-evolutionary. Our nearest relatives do not indulge in recreational sex.

WHO IS the world's best-selling non-fiction author and the world's most widely read gardening writer? Why, Salford-born Dr David Hessayon, FRMS, FRES, FRSA, FIBiol, FBIM, FIHort, whose Expert series of gardening books has sold 39 million copies since the first title, Be Your Own Gardening Expert, was launched in 1959. And he invented Baby-Bio, the house plant's answer to Pedigree Chum. In 1996 alone, seven of the year's top 10 best- selling gardening books were Experts, with The House Plant Expert - in the top 10 for 36 years - at number 6. Most of the copies are bought not in bookshops but in such places as B&Q and Homebase and, while purists may sneer, the Royal Horticultural Society has no doubts. "Nobody has improved on the formula for getting facts on the page in the most immediately intelligible manner," says librarian Brent Elliott.

The Literator