Diary: Knives out for Sebastian

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The Independent Online

Sebastian Faulks is due to present his thoughts on the British novel in his BBC2 series Faulks on Fiction beginning this weekend. In the meantime, British novelists have been passing judgement on Faulks. Michael Arditti wrote on Facebook last week that, when he appeared on Radio 4 to plug his latest novel, a problem arose: "Faulks, whose new TV programme I and my fellow critics had trounced on last week's Saturday Review, was the [next] guest. Slightly Feydeau-esque situation as I was led out of one door while he came in through the other."

Arditti's Facebook friends, many of them fellow novelists, chipped in. From Susan Hill: "Don't worry, Faulks does not regard any of the rest of us as worthy of eye contact let alone recognition." From Amanda Craig: "I'm afraid he is one of the few novelists who arouse real irritation and dislike in me." From Booker-shortlisted Linda Grant: "He's ridiculously bad." Of course, once one has one's own prime-time television show, one imagines one is untroubled by such petty things as literary feuds – eh, Sebastian?

* An intriguing guest on Sunday's Broadcasting House: one Mary-Ellen Field, who calls herself "collateral damage" from the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. In the mid-2000s, Field was an adviser to a celebrity when privileged information, to which she had access, leaked into the pages of NOTW. Said celebrity, whom the BBC discreetly declined to name, gave her the boot – and Field became depressed and unwell. "It had a terrible effect," she said. "My reputation is everything. If someone doesn't trust you, how can you do your job?" Field believes the source of the leaks was, in fact, her hacked voicemail. The journalists allegedly responsible, she says, are "lazy... if they can't get a story without hacking into people's phones". Her ex-employer, moreover, has yet to apologise. "[They] have known since 2006 [when Glenn Mulcaire was arrested] that I didn't do these things. An apology would be nice, but I'm not going to hold my breath." So who was this ungracious celeb? One Elle Macpherson, supermodel. And I didn't even hack a phone to find out. (It's on the internet.)

* Many thanks to Ed Balls and The Times political team that interviewed him this weekend, for providing me with a trove of textural detail to use in the screenplay for my notional joint biopic, A Cock and Balls. The film, inspired by the success of The King's Speech, tells of how Balls and his opposite number, George (né Gideon) Osborne, rose to prominence despite their speech impediments: Balls a stammer, Osborne a squeak. The aforementioned interview provided not only emotional subtext ("Tension," said Balls, "the feeling that you might let people down. It's a worry that being yourself might not be good enough."), but also tips on dialogue ("It would be impossible for me to start a sentence with an H. I often start sentences with 'look' or 'well' because the thing is to get moving"). He and Gideon also had silly names, as Balls movingly recalled: "If you are 10 years old and have my surname, then you get a bit of grief off kids. If you know what it's like to have a little bit of bullying then you never bully anyone." There won't be a dry eye in the house.



* And to those who'd scoff at the notion of a humble gossip columnist parlaying his/her scoop-getting skills into a screenwriting career, I present exhibit A: Rav Singh, former News of the World show business reporter, who just started work on a screenplay for a multimillion-pound Bollywood movie. He left his previous job, with public relations outfit the Outside Organisation, after less than six months to take on the project. As NOTW's showbiz hack for eight years – including four under his dear friend Andy Coulson – Singh was responsible for 52 front-page celebrity scoops; an astounding strike rate. I fear I need to improve my stats.



* John Prescott's son, David, tweets: "Wow! Check-in to Facebook deals and get £4,000 off a new Mazda!" Couldn't his Dad lend him the spare Jag?

highstreetken@independent.co.uk

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