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A Political 'Bonkbuster'

7 October 2002

The British papers this week have been full of stories relating to the Diaries of Edwina Currie, which have been serialised in The Times. In many ways this is the publishing story of the year, both an amazing publishing coup and an instance of a book truly forcing the rewriting of history.

Time Warner UK have been Edwina Currie's fiction publishers since 1997, so they were the obvious publishers for her Diaries, covering the period 1987 to 1992, which they signed up as part of a two-book deal last autumn. However it wasn't until publishing director Alan Samson was reading through the draft manuscript earlier this year that he came across references to Currie's affair with 'B' ... and soon figured out that this concealed the identity of John Major, then chief whip in Margaret Thatcher's cabinet. A highly successful campaign of secrecy followed, with only a handful of top executives at Time Warner in on the secret, and the deal with The Times negotiated just three weeks before the book was serialised. Undoubtedly the book will be one the biggest sellers of the Christmas season, overshadowing other much-touted titles.

The wider implications are particularly interesting, forcing political commentators to revaluate the Major years and his 'back-to-basics' campaign. It is quite extraordinary that the affair was successfully kept under wraps for all this time. After the relationship had ended, Edwina Currie, who seems to have really loved John Major, was undoubtedly devastated when the prime minister, returned to power, failed to offer her a senior cabinet post and her political career was effectively over. She turned to writing 'bonkbusters' and has established herself as a bestselling author - and a formidable publicist. In fact the plot of her first novel, A Parliamentary Affair, mirrored the facts of her affair with Major far more closely than anyone could possibly have guessed at the time.