Between the Covers

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

Saturday 21 April 2012 18:01

Unlike the Pulitzer, which has awarded no fiction prize this year for the first time in its 35-year history, the Authors Club Best First Novel Award has reduced its shortlist from six to five titles because there were too many good books from which to choose.

The judges had a strong shortlist of five, Between the Covers is told, but were deadlocked between two more. It was decided that it would be fairer to keep five and reject the contentious two. Those five are: Leela's Book by Alice Albinia (Harvill Secker); City Of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Cape); The Last Hundred Days by Patrick McGuinness (Seren); A Book for All and None by Clare Morgan (Weidenfeld); and The Knife Drawer by Padrika Tarrant (Salt).

The London Book Fair at Earl's Court last week looks likely to have been even bigger than last year's, but publishers and agents at the annual rights fair and knees up were very much aware of a cuckoo in their nest. This year, for the first time, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing had a booth there, offering advice, presentations, and the enthusiasm of some of their most successful self-published authors. While the pricing of Kindle ebooks remains a bone of contention for traditional publishers, most of them were optimistic about the growth of digital publishing in the market. And well they might. Two of the Amazon authors at the booth were Kerry Wilkinson, author of Kindle's number one-selling Jessica Daniel series, and Rachel Abbott, who wrote the UK Kindle store's bestseller, Only the Innocent. While both of these authors first achieved success with Kindle, Wilkinson now has a deal with Pan Macmillan, and Abbott, who recently acquired an agent, admitted: “I'd love to see my book in a book store.”

In a pre-LBF coup, HarperCollins has announced that it has signed up two books from each of the X Factor bands Little Mix and One Direction. (No, that's not one book from each of the bands claiming to have the rights to the name One Direction; it's just the Simon Cowell crew.) Two will be published this autumn, and two in 2013.

Copies of Paul French's new book Midnight in Peking: The Murder that Haunted the Last Days of Old China (above) have barely left the printers, and already its publisher, Viking, has announced a TV deal. The book investigates the real-life murder in 1937 of Pamela Werner, the teenage daughter of the city's former British consul, whose body was found with its heart removed just days before the Japanese invaded. French has examined the Scotland Yard archives and spoken to people who knew the victim. TV rights have gone to Kudos Television, the company behind The Hour and Spooks, and the book – a bestseller in China and Australia – will be published in the UK on 31 May.

Fans of the 1970s bands Dr Feelgood and The Blockheads will look forward to the publication on 30 May of Looking Back At Me, the autobiography of their bonkers guitarist Wilko Johnson (inset above). The “rock'n'roll scrapbook”, published by Cadiz Music, will include “ephemera and anecdotes” from notable Wilko fans including Robert Plant, Alison Moyet and Whispering Bob Harris, and it promises to expand upon his love of astronomy, art, literature, clouds, poetry, science fiction and Shakespeare. Incidentally, Wilko really does play Ser Ilyn Payne in the HBO series of George R R Martin's Game of Thrones.

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