Between the Covers: 13/05/2012

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

Saturday 12 May 2012 19:46

A warning to writers not to exaggerate when they write the biogs for their publishers' publicity material: Will Davis, the author of The Trapeze Artist, which was published last Thursday, added a line about his real-life training on the trapeze, and ended up doing a display on silks at the launch of Bloomsbury's new imprint, Bloomsbury Circus, in Shoreditch last week. Fortunately, he was telling the truth and turned out to be pretty dazzling. Editor Alexandra Pringle stressed the new imprint's commitment to mid-list authors and real, physical books, and giant hot dogs were served, which is the other guaranteed way to impress the literary set. Rumours that a contortionist with a hoop was actually A S Byatt turned out to be unfounded (sadly).

Thanks to Twitter for the most amusing literary diversion of the week: sheep poets. Ewe A Fanthorpe, Lamb Sissay, Lord Baaa-ron, Percy Fleece Shelley, Wool Shakespeare, Ted Ewes and Shorn O'Brien are some of the best.

This year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show will have a literary theme. Adam Frost's "A Rural Muse" garden "will reflect the distinct and diverse countryside that inspired so much of John Clare's poetry." Vicky Harris's "The Veolia Water Garden", inspired by William Wordsworth's poem "The Fountain", will depict a Cumbrian landscape and explore ways of gardening while conserving water. Tracy Foster's "Welcome to Yorkshire" garden reflects the landscape around the Brontës' native Haworth. And "The Plankbridge Hutmakers Ltd Garden", designed by Adam Woolcott and Jonathan Smith, uses heirloom vegetables, British native wildflowers and a handcrafted shepherd's hut based on the one in the opening scene of Far From the Madding Crowd. There is nothing in the press release about mad soldiers, jilted fiancées, or dying sheep – so we're hoping that the designers have left those out.

As the founder of the bookshop chain Ottakar's, James Heneage ought to know what sells, and now he has sold his own trilogy of historical fiction to Quercus for an undisclosed six-figure sum. To be published from 2013, Heneage's Mistra trilogy is billed as "a rich, remarkable series, featuring three families whose crossed allegiances, plots and passions are played out ... against a background of epic scale: Byzantine and Ottoman empires, warring states and tribes, divided churches and religions, ruthless traders and the mythic power of the hidden relics." It sounds a bit like the book trade.

Between the Covers is a big fan of the children's author Nicholas Allan, in particular his best-selling book The Queen's Knickers, and so was amused to hear the recent news of W H Smith tills countrywide issuing receipts for the book for a whole morning – regardless of what product was bought. "I suppose it must have been a surprise to anyone buying an adult magazine or some other dubious product," Allan told the BBC. Allan is also the author of the 2001 book Gatecrashing (Ebury Press), which explained how to sneak uninvited into any party. Perhaps his next book will be about how to gatecrash bookshops' electronic point-of-sale systems.

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