Bookworm: William’s a winner

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EIGHT years ago, he founded the Jaipur Literary Festival with just one author – himself – and an audience of 14 people “who must all have taken a wrong turn”.

These days, though, William Dalrymple bestrides the world like a literary colossus. That Jaipur literary bash – the latest of which ended last week – is now the third-biggest literary festival in the world, and this year’s was attended by both the Dalai Lama and Oprah Winfrey.

On top of that, his new book, Return of a King – a brilliant history of Britain’s First Afghan War – is attracting both rave reviews and high-profile readers to match: on his recent trip to Washington, President Kharzai was seen with a copy. A string of appearances at literary festivals lay ahead: Dubai, Pakistan, Burma, and the book’s Afghan launch, which he hopes could be in the beautiful Babur Gardens by the tomb of the first Mughal Emperor in Kabul.

All of which, though, will be as nothing compared to his next event in Edinburgh – at 7pm on Tuesday at the Royal College of Surgeons in the Old Town. Tickets are £6, which includes a £5 discount on the book, and can be obtained from the front desk of Blackwell’s Bookshop or over the phone on 0131-622 8218.

A study in success

According to the Bookseller, Richard Parsons’s books sold more than those by Ian Rankin, Enid Blyton and Stieg Larsson put together, Richard Who?, I hear you ask, and rightly so, because he doesn’t actually write all the books that carry his name on their inside cover and which last year increased their sales by 7 per cent to £8.3 million.

What he DID do, however, was to have the idea – in 1995 – that students needed better study and revision guides, write some himself, and set up the company that has produced more than 600 of them. All I can find out abvout him is that he’s 47, has never given an interview and runs a petrol station and leisure centre in Broughton-in-Furness, Cumbria.

Dream debut

Bookworm is glad to see that Ullapool Book Festival’s love affair with literary Canada is continuing. A late addition to May’s programme is Wayne Johnston, whose Colony of Unrequited Dreams has been hailed as one of the most important Canadian books ever published.