Figures show children worst hit by library cuts

Official figures show more than 100 libraries closed last year, with campaigners warning that the heaviest impact is being made on the youngest readers

More than 100 branch libraries closed in the last year, according to official figures, with library campaigners warning that the cuts hurt children in big cities such as Birmingham and Sheffield the most.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy’s annual survey of Great Britain’s libraries paints familiar picture: for the seventh year running, the number of branches and paid staff declined. There are now 3,745 branches remaining in England, Scotland and Wales, down by 105 since 2016, while the number of paid staff has declined by 5% compared with a year ago.

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Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz review – fiendish whodunnit

Horowitz channels Agatha Christie, with a rustic English setting, a tricksy book-within-a-book, and red herrings aplenty

Anthony Horowitz has ventriloquised Ian Fleming in Trigger Mortis. He’s taken on Arthur Conan Doyle in The House of Silk. And very well too. In Magpie Murders, Horowitz tries something a little different: he pastiches the cosy country murder stories of Agatha Christie, setting his whodunnit in the sleepy 1950s English village of Saxby-on-Avon, where the widely disliked Mary Blakiston has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in Pye Hall, the grand house where she worked as a housekeeper.

Except he doesn’t really do this at all. Blakiston’s death is a story within a story, the work of a crime novelist, one Alan Conway, whose vintage tales of murders solved by the wonderfully umlauted German detective Atticus Pünd regularly top the bestseller lists. Conway’s editor, Susan Ryeland, is Horowitz’s narrator ...

Six-figure deal for ‘Irish Bridget Jones’ series

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen sign two-book deal to follow their breakout debut, Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling

Two friends whose novel about a “complete Aisling” is being hailed as the Irish answer to Bridget Jones have landed a six-figure two-book deal.

Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen started sharing “Aisling-isms” with their friends in 2008, while they were sharing a flat in Dublin. But when the two journalists set up a Facebook page to swap stories of a country girl who has never dyed her hair or lost her phone, who walks to work as fast as she can to get her steps in, they gradually found an audience beyond their immediate circle.

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US author William H Gass dies aged 93

Acclaimed writer of novels Omensetter’s Luck and The Tunnel – and coiner of the term ‘metafiction’ – has died at home in Missouri

The US author William H Gass, who explored the boundaries of fiction in novels such as The Tunnel and Omensetter’s Luck, has died at the age of 93.

Gass passed away on Wednesday at his home in Missouri, Penguin Random House announced, describing him as “a leading experimental writer, known for abandoning traditional narrative”, and highlighting his influence on writers including Jonathan Safran Foer and David Foster Wallace.

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Fifty Shades sequel tops bestseller lists but whips up little enthusiasm

The latest twist in EL James’s erotic saga posts only a quarter of its predecessor’s first-week sales, but still storms to bestseller summit

EL James may have bagged another number one bestseller slot, but the public appetite for Christian Grey’s violent sexual antics appears to be on the slide, with the latest Fifty Shades novel selling 300,000 copies fewer than its predecessor in its first week on sale.

Darker is the second volume in James’s project to retell the story of Grey and Anastasia Steele’s BDSM relationship through the eyes of the millionaire businessman. According to the Bookseller, it sold just over 85,000 copies on publication last week – enough to catapult the novel to the top of the book charts, but only 22% of the 385,972 copies notched up in a week by the retelling’s first volume, Grey, in 2015.

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Doris Lessing’s Nobel medal goes up for auction

Bids for the medal presented to one of the few women to win the Nobel prize in literature will start at £250,000

Doris Lessing’s Nobel prize medal, won in 2007 for “subject[ing] a divided civilisation to scrutiny … with scepticism, fire and visionary power”, is to be sold at auction next week, with an expected price upwards of £150,000.

Christie’s, which has set a guide price of between £150,000 and £250,000, said that only one other Nobel medal for literature has previously sold at auction. That was Andre Gide’s, which sold in Paris last year for €300,000. Sotheby’s put William Faulkner’s Nobel medal up for auction in New York in 2013, with a guide price of $500,000 to $1m, but did not find a buyer.

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‘It’s pretty murderous’: Owen King on writing an apocalyptic shocker with his father Stephen

When Owen King, a writer of light comedy, had a ‘horrible’ idea for a novel, he knew who to ask for help. But Sleeping Beauties is not a horror, he insists – there are no ghosts or scary clowns

Two years ago, a novelist called Owen King had “the littlest germ” of an idea for a book: “What if, one day, all the women in the world don’t wake up?” He loved it, but it wasn’t the kind of thing he usually wrote. His novels, while well-reviewed, never exactly set the charts alight. Fortunately, his father – one Stephen King – was something of an expert in post-apocalyptic horror. “I thought to myself, ‘Wow, it would be just fucking horrible.’ I can tell my dad, it sounds like something he’d be really interested in.”

Discussing story ideas with his father wasn’t something he’d done before. “My dad ...