Party season begins with a series of bangs

<p>The party season began with a bang last week, literally. At Cape's bash for Salman Rushdie, deafening music was punctuated by the crash of waiters dropping cocktail trays. Although Fourth Estate's 21st party was more sedate, the trays also fell regularly, soaking revellers with champagne. The 21st had a school reunion feel, as former staffers now dispersed across the industry were reunited. Victoria Barnsley's speech was cheerfully carefree, recalling the drunken days and nights of the 1990s when the trendy publisher was the most arrogant in the business. Nicholas Pearson--who Barnsley introduced as "the only editor to cry at a sales conference"--then followed with a some highlights from Fourth Estate's first ever catalogue, including a guide to the bookshops in London (calculated to get the trade onside) and a riveting book of views from trains.</p><p>A purple party for Justine Picardie at the Chanel boutique attracted a star turnout (Nigella Lawson, Emma Thompson, David Baddiel). The purple theme--including Lebanese lemonade--was in keeping with the theme of the Lavender Trust. And on purple form was Macmillan c.e.o. Richard Charkin, who was enthusing about his undergraduate adventures in Morocco to "score dope" with Nick Drake. Charkin said he was continually asked about Drake's sexuality, to which his reponse to me is: "I slept with him several times, but we never f***ed."</p><p> Dear Horace, </p><p>How sad to see you publishing Joe Hill's gross slur on Alexander McCall Smith and on maiden aunts ("I'm loving . . . I'm not loving", The Bookseller, 2nd September). Mr Hill is entitled to like or dislike any novel he reads--that's one of the joys of reading--but surely he can say he didn't enjoy Friends, Lovers, Chocolate without being quite so rude.</p><p>As for maiden aunts, they are likely to read as widely and with as much enthusiasm as any other reader--perhaps more so. Some may have more disposable income to spend on books than the unmaidens, aunts or not, so booksellers shouldn't alienate them, any more than they should alienate any other section of the community.</p><p>Being an aunt is a state over which one has no control. Being a maiden is a state caused by a number of factors, including the imbalance of population in this country which results in a larger number of females than males. I suggest that Mr Hill's male chauvinism is quite out of place. He simply shows his lack of manners and education.</p><p>Yours, considering not buying any more books at Waterstone's,</p><p>Felicity Trotman</p><p>Downside, Chicklade, Salisbury SP3 5SU</p><p>I'm amazed that it took publishers so long to pick up the autobiography of TV legend David Hasselhoff. I hear that Penguin came close last year--when the "Baywatch" star visited the Strand he dropped in on his ol' pal Marjorie Scardino. But he's obviously found a good home with Hodder. When Judith Longman got back from holiday, she found that there were pictures of him all over her door, and that the room had been rechristened "Judith's Hoffice".</p><p>As the Borders conference took place in Birmingham on Monday, the Ashes were on everyone's mind. News of England's victory prompted m.d. Philip Downer to bound onto the stage claiming that he should call his opposite number in Australia, John Campradt, to gloat. Former Daily Mirror editor and cricket fan Piers Morgan, at the conference to promote his book The Insider, was less thrilled. Presenting an award for Best-Performing Borders Store, he said that the only way he could forgive Borders for dragging him from the celebrations in London was if its booksellers sold lots of copies of his book. </p><p>While in China for the Beijing Book Fair, my old chum Ian Taylor was transfixed by China's equivalent of "Pop Idol". Commercial sponsorship of the show has produced the less catchy title "The Mongolian Cow Sour Yogurt Super Girl Contest". The viewing audience grew to reach an astonishing 400 million for the final, when eight million votes were text messaged. And, yes, there is a tie-in book and it's China's number one bestseller. "Surely the biggest TV tie-in ever?" asks Ian.</p><p>At a party to celebrate the second birthday of Piatkus' imprint Portrait, high hopes were expressed for a new book, The Curious Cures of Old England, by Nigel Cawthorne. But when Cawthorne arrived at the party, he was bubbling with enthusiasm for his Sex Lives series, which is published by Prion. Cawthorne revealed that Barnes&amp;Noble had asked for some changes before stocking it. Happy with the sex scenes, it had asked Cawthorne to take the jokes out. He obliged, only to put them back in--in Latin.</p><p>Possibly inspired by the success of the Romantic Novelists' Association on "University Challenge", veteran novelist Frederick Forsyth is to take part in a celebrity edition of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" tomorrow evening (17th September). The Avenger author will partner Gloria Hunniford against Edwina Currie and "Big Brother" contestant Derek Laud.</p><p>Horace Bent</p><p></p>