Can this be true? Following our story yesterday about the lack of reviews of Bruce Dover’s new book Rupert’s Adventures in China in the Sun King’s local newspapers, the editor of the monthly Australian Literary Review supplement, Stephen Romei, has been in touch to say that the publishers, Penguin, haven’t sent him a copy!

Penguin did not return calls asking for comment on this before this morning’s deadline.

Because of the no-show of the book, says Romei, there will be no review in the edition due out next week, nor in the April edition, which is already over full. No conclusions about editorial independence should be drawn from this.

As for May, Romei says he usually pairs books for review, so if he decides to cover the Dover book he will probably wait until he has something else as well to go with it.

Nobody from within the News Limited organisation has spoken to him about the book, and the decision on whether to review it will be made entirely on the book’s merits, says Romei, who stands on his record so far as independence is concerned. He points out that he has run some vitriolic reviews of Melbourne University Publishing books, although they are a major funder of the review.

Fearing pejorative implications, Romei also wishes it to be known that he wasn’t at work yesterday, and spent the morning caring for his toddler. Hence his failure to get back to Crikey in time for yesterday’s story. (By the way, if someone can find a better way of saying “so and so did not get back to us in time for deadline”, Crikey is all ears. Our deadline, it should be noted, is 11.30am and the failure to get back to us can be put down to reluctance only rarely).

Meanwhile the entirely separate publication Australian Book Review will in its edition due out next month carry a review of the Dover book by Richard Walsh, who of course has worked for both Packer and Murdoch, an experience he describes as like being “bit player at the court of a seventeenth- or eighteenth-century monarch.”

As for the Dover book, Walsh gives it a largely positive review. It is a”mighty tale to tell, both riveting and revealing” and Dover “never allows malice to distort his perspective.”

What might News Limited publications say? It seems we will at best have to wait until late in the year to find out.

Margaret Simons has published a book with Penguin, has both written for and had books reviewed in the Australian Literary Supplement and the Australian Review of Books, and has current publishing contracts with Melbourne University Publishing.

Peter Fray

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