In an effort to breathe new life into the book world this Christmas, some publishers have noted the continuing popularity of cookery and baking, and taken the bold step of persuading some of their top authors to abandon their comfort zones and apply their expertise to new,hybrid subjects. At the same time, lesser-known works of classic authors have been added to their lists.
A few examples of this rising phenomenon are:
Gregg Wallace: 'Victoria Sponge'
Masterchef’s Wallace recounts Queen Victoria’s role in determining British strategy in the Anglo-Russian struggle for Afghanistan in the nineteenth century. Her creation of a cake in the Osborne House kitchen/war-room which graphically demonstrated the Asian country’s position in the middle of contesting imperial rivalries was, Wallace notes, “as crucial as Garibaldi’s biscuit in the reunification of Italy”. In an afterword, David Starkie provides his own favourite recipe.
Andy McNab, Stephenie Meyer and Nigella Lawson: 'SAS Vampire Baker'
A deeply-felt artistic collaboration that isn’t an attempt to cash in on their respective audiences in the slightest, 'SAS Vampire Baker”' tells the story of John Baker, a career soldier whose hunger can only be assuaged by the blood of his victims; using just this, plus desert sand, twigs and his sugar ration, John creates delicious cakes for the rest of his unit as they shoot their way to victory.
Michel Roux: 'The Battenbergs'
The story of a royal family that embraces all the romance, intrigue and fascination that comes from immortalisation as a cake. With an afterword by Simon Schama in which he provides his favourite recipe.
Melanie Phillips: 'Bakewell Tart'
The 60s; free love; Joan Bakewell. Phillips locates Britain’s collapse into a moral cesspool in Bakewell’s predilection for her very own late-night line-ups.
Among the classic authors being repackaged for the season are:
Rudyard Kipling: 'That’s Mister Kipling To You'
An autobiographical memoir in which the author’s struggle for acceptance in the literary world is finally realised by his ability to provide mouthwatering cakes at book launches.
W. Somerset Maugham: 'Cakes and Ale', the first of a trilogy which is followed by the lesser-known 'Black Forest Gateau and Beer', and culminates in 'All-Butter Scottish Shortbread and Champagne'.
A book industry insider said publishers regard the profit-making possibilities of these titles as "mouthwatering". He added "Just to clarify, that's profit, not profiteroles."