Matthew Bell: The IoS Diary (15 April 2012)

A charity of sorts


Not everyone is happy that William Boyd has been asked to write the new James Bond book. Leading crime writer Val McDermid is outraged that, for the third time running, the job has gone to a man. On Thursday, the Fleming estate announced they had asked the Brazzaville Beach author to follow where Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver have led. After the success of Faulks's Devil May Care, in 2007, the Fleming estate has struck on a handy cottage industry to keep the franchise going. "Isn't it about time they asked a woman?" asks McDermid. "Or do they really think we can't write from a male perspective?" Other writers have rallied round, including Susan Hill, whose Woman in Black is now a hit film starring Daniel Radcliffe. "It has been my ambition for years to be the first woman to write a Bond," she says. "[but] they only want men." The Fleming estate declined to comment.

Sir Jimmy Savile was celebrated for his taste in Rolls-Royces and tartan tracksuits. Now, his possessions could be yours. I can reveal that some of the estate of the late, great entertainer is to be auctioned by Dreweatts at Donnington Priory in Newbury, on 20 June. The Jim'll Fix It host died at his home in Leeds last October, aged 84. Last month, it emerged that he left most of his £4.3m fortune to charity. Details of what will be up for grabs have yet to be released. Thousands turned out to see his gold-coloured coffin before he was buried in Scarborough; he asked that it be positioned at 45 degrees, so he could "see the sea".

All change at English National Ballet, where Wayne Eagling has been replaced as artistic director by leading ballerina Tamara Rojo. If we were the sort of diary that went in for boasting, we might point out that this time last year, we were questioning how much longer Eagling could stay in the job. A devastating fly-on-the-wall documentary called Agony & Ecstasy had exposed Eagling's far from ideal working practices, in which the dancers had no idea what they were supposed to be doing minutes before a major opening night. An ENB spokesman downplayed the embarrassment at the time, and told us Eagling's position was not in doubt. Anyone curious to learn more about Rojo before she starts can catch her in the Royal Ballet's current triple bill, in which she strips down to nothing but a pair of Edwardian bloomers. We trust she'll give up that sort of thing in her new job.

What's this? John Prescott has written a book called Taste Matters: Why We Like the Food We Do. There's a puff by Heston Blumenthal: "Our food likes and dislikes are the result of a labyrinth of influences. John Prescott is our perfect guide through this labyrinth." Really? Is he thinking of the same John Prescott who memorably described nipping out of a party conference for a kebab, which he later threw up? Open random page: "Comfort food evokes associations with positive relationships, acting as a surrogate in the absence of loved ones." Well, this is certainly Two Jags's subject – he famously battled bulimia. Oh, no, hold on – a footnote in small letters reveals the author is Professor John Prescott, an Australian academic. Surely the publishers didn't want us to think it was the other one?

Is David Cameron looking for a new spin merchant? If so, literary PR man Steven Williams could be in with a shout. Standing outside his office the other day, Williams spotted a grey Range Rover shimmer towards him. "The street outside our office was completely blocked by a delivery lorry," he tells me. "The car pulled up right in front of me and disgorged various security men and, finally, David Cameron. I said, 'Good Morning, Prime Minister, have you come to see me?' Cameron looked up at the Midas Public Relations sign, and said: 'No, but perhaps I should!'"

If you missed this weekend's Laugharne festival, a delightful annual bash held in the Welsh town that inspired Under Milk Wood – fear not. A new festival celebrating Dylan Thomas is being planned, but in Ireland. The County Clare Dylan Thomas festival, to be held next month, is happening because Francis Macnamara, the father of Thomas's Swansea-born wife Caitlin, once lived in the Falls Hotel and Spa, and the hotel's canny owner has spotted an opportunity. How's that for the spirit of enterprise!

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