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Scandal, Innuendo and Celebrity Gossip

11 November 2002

There's never been a time like it. Bookselling in the UK has been dominated during the last few weeks by scandal, innuendo and celebrity gossip. First there was the kiss-and-tell memoirs of politician Edwina Currie, whose book revealed, to everyone's astonishment, her genuinely secret affair with former prime minister John Major. TV presenter Ulrika Johnsen has scored more heavily in sales terms than Currie with her revelations of rape by an unnamed TV personality (who has rapidly been smoked out by the media). Jeffrey Archer's prison diaries seem to have sold in large quantities, in spite of snide comments about the deluxe nature of his own prison experiences and the wisdom of offending the prison authorities whilst still in their grasp.

Finally, most sensational of all, there's the story of Diana's butler, Paul Burrell, the case against whom was dropped after the astounding revelation that he had told the Queen he was taking the items he was accused of stealing into safekeeping. Only a few days elapsed before Burrell himself was telling all to one paper, whilst being comprehensively trashed by the others. Although it's hard to believe that there's much more to tell, a book cannot be far behind.

After all this fevered sensationalism, it's a pleasure to record that the memoir of Nelson Mandela, Long Road to Freedom, has just reached a landmark sale of 1.5 million copies in its UK edition. Mandela managed to write most of the book secretly whilst he was in political detention. He subsequently negotiated with the apartheid regime to secure the release of fellow political prisoners and was ultimately successful in bringing democracy to South Africa. Anyone who has read the book will attest to its power and honesty. Anyone who hasn't is recommended to dive into its pages, which are a testimony to the human spirit, as well as the power of memoir to inspire, rather than disgust.