THE fickleness of literary fortune. Interest in A N Wilson, Ian McEwan and Peter Ackroyd is on the wane. V S Pritchett and Kingsley Amis are making a comeback. And Julian Barnes is on the way up.
At least that's the score according to Joseph Connolly, the author of Britain's only guide to who is in
and out of fashion in the arcane world of collecting contemporary first editions.
Connolly, whose Modern First Editions: Their Value to Collectors is published in a new edition next month, says that interest in collecting the old literary guard - Graham Greene, P G Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh - is holding up well, while the following for Wilson (too much journalism), McEwan (not in the Amis fils league) and Ackroyd (too prolific, too many biographies) is declining.
Of the younger literary turks, Martin Amis is still the 'bee's knees, the leader of the pack' and, as such, is ferociously collected. A fine hardback copy of his first book, The Rachel Papers (1973), could set you back by as much as pounds 400. Even Money (1984) is worth up to pounds 60.
Among those to watch out for of newly collected authors are Jay McInerney, the American chronicler of west-coast life, Ellis Peters, the crime and mystery writer, and Robertson Davies, the Canadian writer. Not to be touched at any price, according to Connolly, are Catherine Cookson, Jeffrey Archer and Jackie Collins. Just not collected or collectable, apparently.
Salman Rushdie's notoriety now means that a good hardback copy of The Satanic Verses (1988) is worth up to pounds 100; without the fatwa it would have been a mere pounds 10. Dick Francis's first novel, Dead Cert (1962), can fetch up to pounds 250, while a first edition of Brideshead Revisited (1945) could cost pounds 3,000.
If you should happen to be in Bedford this Saturday you could always test your treasures out on Connolly personally. He will be doing a sort of one-man literary version of the Antiques Roadshow at the Bedford Literary Festival. Be warned, however. He has no expertise on cookery books, old bibles, war memoirs or anything by Jilly Cooper.
LEGAL advice wears better than economic forecasts to judge by the cost of two adjacent volumes in a remainder shop near London's Liverpool Street station. Book one: an American edition of Libel and Slander by one Peter F Carter- Ruck, price dollars 25 ( pounds 10.20) in 1973, now pounds 8.95. Book two: Into the Upwave by Robert Beckman, an investment specialist, out in 1988, just in time for the downwave, price pounds 16.95 and now, not surprisingly, cut to pounds 4.99.
Voice from the past
NEW lifts at the BBC have a recorded message announcing each floor - in a voice that many may find familiar.
About eight years ago Astley Jones, the Radio 4 continuity announcer and newsreader, made a tape for Shell when the oil company found it didn't like the American voice supplied with their new Otis lift.
Since then it seems his modulated BBC tones have been used in many Otis lifts up and down the country. Having just refurbished the lifts in Broadcasting House, the company offered the corporation a choice of three voices announcing each floor - 'male, female or American'. The BBC plumped for the oddly familiar tones of the male voice, a voice that turned out to belong to none other than their own Astley Jones who is less than happy with his elevated position. He is deeply embarrassed to find his old recording coming back to haunt him. His office in Broadcasting House happens to be just two doors away from the lift.
MARTYN Lewis is not the only newscaster with an aversion to bad news. 'I'm a great crier in private,' Trevor McDonald tells the June issue of Living magazine, while recalling some of his more distressing assignments. 'It's not unusual for me to go back to my hotel room and cry,' he says. 'I worry about everything and worry for everybody . . . there are always a million worries bubbling over in my mind.' Worrying, really.
FOUND in a list of unanswered written questions from members of the European Parliament in the European Community's official journal, a question on: 'Failure to answer written questions'.
A DAY LIKE THIS
20 May 1963 T H White writes from Naples: 'I am having a comical adventure here, as I have been adopted by a family of costermongers, all as poor as church mice, to whom I am a godsend for purposes of exploitation. The two who have particularly adopted me are Gianpaulo and Alfredo. I can't resist their greed, gaiety, childishness and essential goodness. They arrive at the hotel every morning long before I want to get up, bearing a rose which they claim to have bought for me (pinched). They rummage in my clothes with cries of delight, polish my shoes, dress me and off we go for another day on sea or land, generally ending at the cinema or a night restaurant high above this starry bay. They call me Il Professore and treat me as tenderly as a baby. At times they draw me aside and explain that their Daddy has asthma and it would be very nice if I gave him half a million sterling to make it better.'Reuse content