Captain Underpants book reveals Harold marries a man

Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot is lauded for a character ‘matter-of-factly presented as gay without commentary’

Dav Pilkey, author of the bestselling Captain Underpants series, has quietly revealed that one of his two main protagonists, Harold, grows up to marry a man.

Pilkey’s latest Captain Underpants novel, Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot, has just been published, and sees George and Harold, the young creators of “the greatest superhero in the history of their elementary school”, meet their future selves:

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Henrietta Lacks biographer Rebecca Kloots responds to US parent over ‘porn’ allegation

Author says parent from Tennessee is confusing ‘gynaecology with pornography’ over description of Lacks discovering a lump in her cervix

Writer Rebecca Skloot has hit back at a Tennessee parent who is trying to have her acclaimed biography of Henrietta Lacks removed from local schools, saying the complainant is confusing “gynaecology with pornography”.

Knoxville news station WBIR reported that Jackie Sims, the mother of a 15-year-old boy at Knox County Schools’ L&N Stem Academy, had objected to Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks when he brought it home as part of his summer reading. Her son has now been assigned a different text, but Sims is attempting to get Skloot’s biography of the African-American whose cancer cells – taken from her without her knowledge and which subsequently changed modern medicine – pulled from all Knox County schools.

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Jonathan Tel wins Commonwealth short story prize

British writer beats authors from Nigeria, India and Trinidad and Tobago with The Human Phonograph, a ‘disconcerting’ tale of China’s nuclear history

British author Jonathan Tel has won the Commonwealth short story prize for a tale set on a nuclear base in China, which judges called “disconcerting” and “extraordinary”.

Tel beat four shortlisted authors – Fijian Mary Rokonadravu, Nigerian Lesley Nneka Arimah, Indian Siddhartha Gigoo, and Kevin Jared Hosein from Trinidad and Tobago – to win the £5,000 award. The prize is for the best piece of unpublished short fiction by a writer from the 53 countries of the Commonwealth.

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White poet used Chinese pen name to gain entry into Best American Poetry

Editors kept Yi-Fen Chou’s poem in the 2015 anthology, published today, even after the author revealed his real identity to be Michael Derrick Hudson

Controversy has enveloped the prestigious Best American Poetry anthology after it emerged that a white poet had been included in the selection after adopting a Chinese pen name – and that Yi-Fen Chou’s poem was kept in the much sought-after lineup even after the author told editors his real identity was Michael Derrick Hudson.

At the back of the 2015 edition of The Best American Poetry, which is published today, Yi-Fen Chou is revealed as the pen name of Michael Derrick Hudson, from Indiana. Hudson writes that his poem chosen for the anthology, The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve, was rejected under his real name 40 times before he sent it out as Yi-Fen Chou, when it was rejected nine times ...

Hollywood star Ethan Hawke’s third novel is a ‘parable for all ages’

The actor and writer addresses the big existential questions in Rules for a Knight, the story of a Cornish knight writing to his children before he rides into battle

Thomas Malory gave us Le Morte d’Arthur in the 15th century; TH White gave us The Once and Future King in the 20th. Now the actor and writer Ethan Hawke is due to provide his own take on chivalry in a forthcoming novel, Rules for a Knight, which his publisher is calling “a parable for all ages [with] the appeal of an Arthurian legend and the economy of Aesop”.

Due for publication in November, Hawke’s third novel will be set in 1483, as “Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke, a Cornish knight, is about to ride into battle”, said publisher Hutchinson, which has just acquired it for UK publication. Fearing he might die in battle, on the eve of his departure, the knight ...

Stephen King to receive National Medal of Arts from Barack Obama

The US president will present the novelist with the highest award for artists given by the US government

When Stephen King was announced as the winner of a medal for distinguished contribution to American letters in 2003, the eminent literary critic Harold Bloom said it was “a testimony to [the] idiocy” of the awarding organisation, the National Book Awards. On 10 September, no less than Barack Obama will present the novelist with the United States’ National Medal of Arts.

The highest award for artists given by the US government, the medal goes to those who are “deserving of special recognition by reason of their outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States”. King, author of dozens of bestselling novels ranging from The Shining to It, was described as “one of the most popular and prolific writers of our time”, who “combines his ...

Patrick Ness’s refugee appeal tops £500,000

Philip Pullman, Marian Keyes and Anthony Horowitz are the latest authors to join the fundraising drive as 5,000 donors pledge cash

The award-winning young adult author Patrick Ness’s fundraiser for Syrian refugees topped half a million pounds this morning, after writers including Philip Pullman, Marian Keyes and Anthony Horowitz joined the cause over the weekend.

Ness, who won Carnegie medal twice in 2011 and 2012, began fundraising for Save the Children on Thursday morning, saying he was “tired of just tweeting my despair about the current refugee crisis that the UK government is responding to with inhumane feebleness”. He promised to match funds raised by the public up to £10,000 – a target that was reached in under two hours, with fellow authors John Green, Derek Landy and Jojo Moyes each then pledging to donate £10,000 of their own, matching public donations.

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Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin review – a shadowy journey to a very dark place

A woman left for dead isn’t allowed to forget her past in this twisted fairytale

Tessa calls him “my monster”: the man who, 18 years earlier, left her in a shallow grave with a corpse and a collection of bones, beneath a Texan field; the man who, to all intents and purposes, is now on death row, awaiting his imminent execution. Her testimony put Terrell Darcy Goodwin in jail almost two decades ago, so who has been planting clumps of black-eyed susans, the yellow American wildflowers that carpeted her “grave”, at her house ever since?

Julia Heaberlin’s third novel is told by Tessie (as she’s known when she’s a teenager), trying to come to terms with the 32 hours she can’t remember – “The things I do remember, I’d rather not. Four freckles. Eyes that aren’t black but blue, wide open, two inches from mine” – and by Tessa ...

Leading writers hope to shift refugee debate with crowdfunded anthology

Monica Ali, William Boyd and Marina Lewycka among the authors recruited with aim of shifting public perspectives

Major authors including Monica Ali, William Boyd and Marina Lewycka are lining up to contribute writing to a new crowdfunded anthology which aims to counter the anti-refugee rhetoric in the media.

A Country of Refuge will collect fiction, poetry and memoir from bestselling names also including Sebastian Barry, Ruth Padel, Hanif Kureishi, Amanda Craig and Elaine Feinstein. Editor Lucy Popescu, an author and former director of English PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, is expecting the eventual list of contributors to number at least 25.

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Joan Aiken: Armitage family stories collected for the first time in the UK

Written over 60 years, Joan Aiken’s tales of two children – and their pet unicorn and fairy godmother – have been brought together in an illustrated edition

Fans of the children’s author Joan Aiken are lapping up a collection of her Armitage family stories, The Serial Garden, which has just been published in the UK.

Related: Joan Aiken: a celebration of her life and works – in pictures

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Unseen Ezra Pound poem sold at auction

An unpublished pastiche sonnet written to friend Isabel Codrington, extolling her ‘rare worth’, fetches £7,500

An unpublished poem by Ezra Pound, in which the American poet extols in an Elizabethan sonnet the “pools” that are the “dearest eyes” of his friend, the British painter Isabel Codrington, has been sold at auction for £7,500.

Pound wrote to Codrington, who was then Isabel Konody, married to the art critic Paul George Konody, in April 1909, telling her: “I can’t find an old poem fit to gratify your modest ambition so I have made a new one which I hope you will grace with acceptance.” The author of modernist classic The Cantos added that “I have made it an Elizabethan sonnet because in that form alone is the thought governed with sufficient elegance of confection to be in fitting harmony with Mrs Konody, whose abject slave I subscribe my self herewith”.

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The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep sells to major publisher

Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin’s self-published bestseller to get traditional edition with Penguin Random House

The Swedish author of this summer’s surprise self-published hit, a bedtime story that promises to “make anyone fall asleep” using positive reinforcement techniques and plenty of yawns, has landed a book deal with a major publisher.

Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin’s The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep topped Amazon’s charts in the US and the UK last month, selling 18,585 copies in the UK in the week to 22 August, according to book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan. The sale gave it second place in the UK’s book charts, and was the first time, according to the Bookseller, that a title produced on Amazon’s CreateSpace platform made the official UK top 50.

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Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel races to No 1 in book charts

The Shepherd’s Crown, the 41st book in his much-loved fantasy series, sells more than 52,000 copies in three days

Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna Pratchett has said that “somewhere Dad is raising a glass of brandy to you all” after the late author’s final novel The Shepherd’s Crown topped the UK’s book charts with a huge first-week sale.

Published on 27 August, the 41st Discworld title sold 52,846 copies in just three days in the UK, according to official book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan, more than double the number sold by the second-placed title, Jeffrey Archer’s Mightier Than the Sword. The chart-topping performance marks Pratchett’s 10th British No 1, said his publisher, and is “a fitting tribute to the beloved writer’s final Discworld novel”. It follows midnight launches for the title around the world.

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Elena Ferrante pours scorn on speculation she could be a man

The Italian novelist, whose real-life identity is a well-kept secret, says in email interview that female authors continue to be confined to a ‘literary gynaeceum’

The elusive Italian author Elena Ferrante has said that women writers tend to be shut “in a literary gynaeceum” by the books industry, even though “we know how to think, we know how to tell stories, we know how to write them as well as, if not better, than men”.

In a wide-ranging interview conducted by email with Vanity Fair as she publishes the fourth and final novel in her acclaimed Neapolitan series in English, Ferrante, whose true identity is known to only a handful of people, addressed speculation that she could be a man, or even a group of men.

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Oliver Sacks’s final writings begin to appear

With tributes still coming in for the late neurologist and author, some of his last journalistic work is being published

One of the final articles by the late Oliver Sacks, the acclaimed neurologist and author of Awakenings who died on 30 August, has just been published.

Sacks, who revealed he had terminal cancer in February, was “writing to the last”, according to a statement from his assistant Kate Edgar. His essay Urge has just been published online, and is due out in the 24 September issue of the New York Review of Books, for which Sacks was a long-time contributor.

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Henry VIII voted worst monarch in history

‘Self-indulgent wife murderer and tyrant’ tops poll of historical writers, ahead of Edward VIII and Charles I

King John I may forever be known as a Bad King following that seminal history textbook 1066 and All That, but according to history authors it is Henry VIII who should bear the title of the worst monarch in history.

More than 60 writers were surveyed by the Historical Writers Association, with Henry VIII taking 20% of the vote to find the worst monarch and criticised for a wide range of crimes: he was “obsessive”, “syphilitic” and a “self-indulgent wife murderer and tyrant”, according to respondents.

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And Then There Were None declared world’s favourite Agatha Christie novel

Famously ‘impossible’ tale, already the bestselling crime novel of all time, voted readers’ favourite in global poll

Agatha Christie’s story of 10 strangers who are picked off one by one after being lured to an island mansion, And Then There Were None, has beaten Murder on the Orient Express and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd to be named the world’s favourite Christie novel.

The book, which Christie described as “so difficult to do that the idea had fascinated me”, and which the New York Times, on its publication in 1939, said was “utterly impossible and utterly fascinating … the most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written”, triumphed in a public vote launched by the author’s estate to find her most popular novel. Set up to mark Christie’s 125th birthday on 15 September, the poll saw more than 15,000 people from around the world cast their votes, with And Then ...

Harper Lee’s mystery papers are Mockingbird draft, not a third novel

Expert says documents thought to possibly be another unseen story are from an early version of her most famous book

The “mysterious pages of text” discovered in a safe deposit box in Alabama that Harper Lee’s lawyer had suggested could be a further novel by the author are actually typescripts of To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman, a rare books expert has said.

In July, Lee’s lawyer Tonja Carter had laid out the details of her discovery of Go Set A Watchman, the novel written by Lee before To Kill a Mockingbird but put aside until it was found by Carter last year, and published this summer. Carter wrote in July in the Wall Street Journal that she found the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman in Lee’s safe deposit box in her home town of Monroeville. She added that it also contained what appeared to be ...

Frederick Forsyth: I was an MI6 agent

Day of the Jackal author reveals in autobiography that he worked for the intelligence service for more than two decades

Frederick Forsyth will admit in his forthcoming autobiography that he worked as an agent for MI6 for more than 20 years.

The bestselling thriller author, who was an RAF pilot and a journalist before turning to fiction with The Day of the Jackal, is due to release The Outsider next week. Forsyth has previously denied claims that he worked for MI6 – “Some said that I was a spook, but I just knew a few,” he told the Guardian in 2001 – but an extract from his memoir in the Sunday Times reveals how in late 1968 a “member of the Firm” - MI6 – called Ronnie sought him out.

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