Pinter's price is just too steep for literary relaunch

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The Independent Online

There's good news for wordsmiths. Zembla, the glossy literary magazine that was forced to suspend publication for six months, is back in circulation.

There's good news for wordsmiths. Zembla, the glossy literary magazine that was forced to suspend publication for six months, is back in circulation.

Despite past contributors ranging from Rachel Weisz to Brian Eno, Zembla - which was set up in 2003 - ran out of money last December. It closed its Notting Hill offices and claimed to be seeking investment to the tune of £500,000.

Although no backer has been found, the magazine was relaunched with a party on Saturday night at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival, and its first new issue will hit the shelves this week.

It remains, however, short of cash and, as befits the mag's cutting-edge style, money has been saved in a series of inventive ways. The cult transvestite author J T LeRoy, for example, has contributed an article on the shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, for which he was paid with a pair of high heels provided gratis by the cobbler himself. Many pictures have been provided free of charge and services offered in exchange for advertising.

Harold Pinter has been less helpful. The mag has discovered an old blues lyric by the playwright in the British Film Institute archive. Pinter has said it can be published, but only on condition that they pay him £250 - more than they can comfortably afford.

"We offered to do everything for him, even clean the windows of his sizeable north London home," says Zembla's deputy editor, Phil Oltermann. "But the suggestion was met with silence. In the end we had to cough up the cash, so it'll duly appear in our new issue."

¿ As a dark and brooding Scot, Ken Stott seems the perfect choice to be the next actor to take the part of the world-weary Inspector John Rebus in two new feature-length episodes of the Edinburgh detective's adventures. The scripts have been written by the Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, who has adapted novels by Ian Rankin.

But unlike his predecessors in the role, Stott is refreshingly candid about his view of the books.

"I like the scripts and it'll be fun to shoot them," he tells me. "Filming has just been brought forward so we start in a week's time and, because of that, I don't know who else is going to be in it yet. The scripts are much funnier than the books. I am not actually a Rebus fan, really I'd never read any of them before I was asked to be in these films."

Perhaps this provides some insight into Stott's own preferences. Asked recently what he's done to Rankin's character, Danny Boyle said: "I've made Rebus more sexually active."

¿ Stand by for (very elegant) handbags at dawn. It's a job that many a man would envy, but Elisabeth Murdoch is in the awkward position of having to choose between the supermodel Elle "the body" Macpherson and Liz Hurley, below right.

Murdoch's production company, Shine TV, is the force behind a new reality television series called Project Runway, which - wait for it - pitches clothing designer hopefuls against one another in a series of challenges. She is currently looking for a presenter.

"Both Elle and Liz are desperate to front the show," I'm told. "Although it might sound suspiciously low brow, when Heidi Klum presented the American version it did wonders for her profile. Models need to keep themselves in the headlines, especially as they get older."

¿ Fevered speculation in diplomatic circles over a brazen pitch for work by a "Just retired US Ambassador to Europe".

The mystery mandarin has placed a prominent advertisement in the Financial Times, boasting that he is "fluent in major European language" (apparently not English) and adding - rather sportingly - "international travel possible".

The job he is looking for is "risk assessment, representation of public and family-held corporations, and diplomacy". Nice work if you can get it.

One man unlikely to be after a job is William S Farish, who quit as ambassador to the UK prematurely and whose departure has left the post vacant for a year: the billionaire seems happy breeding horses on his stud farm in Texas. A more plausible contender is Stuart Eizenstat, the retired Ambassador to the EU.

¿ It seemed like such a good idea. The Dream Factory theatre in Warwick is staging The Wars of the Roses and - to lend authenticity to the set - asked a local garden centre to cover its stage in turf. It looks very smart but is causing some problems for the actors.

"Unfortunately, several members of the cast have reported getting itchy eyes and runny noses - symptoms which seem horribly like hayfever," I'm told.

The grass is also proving troublesome for the stage manager.

"The falls of the Houses of Lancaster and York are represented by symbolic showers of tissue paper in white and red," adds my disgruntled mole.

"It's almost impossible to get them up again without uprooting the grass, so we have to crawl around and pick each bit up by hand after every performance."

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