How the eagle landed at City Road after taking off in China

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HARDLY a week passes by without someone publishing a new history of the Independent newspaper. So you will not be surprised to learn that many readers have written to me, anxious to make sure that they haven't missed one of these vital volumes. As I cannot write to all of you individually, I hope you won't mind if I simply publish an up-to-date checklist of the most important contemporary books dealing, however tangentally, with the Independent newspaper.

The Long March to the Independent by Gerald Reuter. One fateful day in 1936 six men set out from a remote part of China on a long march that was to become part of history. Their names? Among others, Chou En-lai, Mao Tse-tung, Deng Xiaoping and Andreas Whittam Smith. Their aims? For some, it was to free China from an ancient but repressive feudal dynasty and set up a new people's regime. For others, it was to free the British press from the feudal chains under which it groaned and bring liberty with the first independent newspaper in England since - well, the first, probably. The story of how well they severally succeeded is unfolded in this grippingly told saga.

Born to Edit, by Tom Bower. Andreas Whittam Smith was born plain Prince Andre Vitamciowicz in Poland. There, as a youngster on the remote plains of that embattled country, he dreamed of coming to England and initiating the first independent newspaper ever started by three newspapermen who had got fed up working for the Daily Telegraph. Forty years later his dream had come true; he had changed his name, learnt to speak perfect English and mastered the intricacies of furling and unfurling an umbrella, though he never really came to like bread and butter pudding that much. He had also appeared at the helm of the mighty Independent empire, though Tom Bower hints in his densely documented biography that Whittam Smith's burning ambition to edit the in-house Harrods magazine may yet be his downfall.

I Helped to Design the New Independent Letters Page, by Arthur Grousepatch. This gripping inside story tells how Grousepatch got involved in the fight to make the Independent letters page look different from any other letters page. There were plans to print it on pink paper smelling of lavender, to reproduce the actual letters, to get letters from famous people ghostwritten, to print the letters in three languages, to print phone calls as well as letters . . . Alas, all these plans came to nought, and they settled for a conventional letters page on which readers' letters were printed as usual. Embittered, Grousepatch resigned and never worked again.

Not A Reader More, Not A Reader Less, by Jeffrey Archer. A rip-roaring novel about an editor whose battle to set up an independent newspaper is constantly thwarted by the machinations of politicians, prostitutes and papermen. In part autobiographical, in part very badly written, it takes us behind the closed doors of the newspaper world to find lots more closed doors.

The Independent's New Design: The Inside Story, by Kim Hepplewhite. Just when the Independent was settling down to its classic new look, it changed to another look. Why? was the question on everyone's lips. Well, the lips of everyone interested in newspaper design, anyway. The answer is to be found in this inside history, written by the man who will ever be remembered as the person responsible for swapping round the position of the theatre and cinema reviews.

The Independent Photo Revolution - A Story in Black and White. Not only did the Independent soon realise colour photography was passe, it also realised that by choosing the right photographer, you could make any scene look gritty and East European. The pictures in this book of the Independent editorial meetings make them look like some Polish Communist branch party meeting. Through the window you can see the everlasting vista of turnip fields and steelworks in the rain, so maybe they really are photos of Polish Communist branch meetings. Who knows?

The Independent and the Royal Family - The Full Story. Two things that have marked the Independent from the early days are its desire to be a paper of record and its disinclination to cover the Royal Family. So how can both be achieved? Easy - write stories on the Royal Family, but don't print them. Here, in one volume, are all the royal stories of the past five years that you thought the paper had ignored, but which secretly it had been covering for the archives.