23 AUGUST 1975, Page 15

Books marks

The British bestseller lists, especially at Christmas, are exercises in undiluted nostalgia. The signs are that Christmas '75 will prove no exception — at least according to Bookbuyer's customary August crystal ball. In non-fiction there are four authorised biographies: young Dimbleby on Richard Dimbleby, Christopher Sykes on Evelyn Waugh, Ronald Clark on Bertrand Russell and Malcolm Muggeridge on Jesus Christ. There are books by two ex-Prime Ministers — Mr Macmillan on his predecessors in The Past Masters and Mr Heath on his own greatest achievements, in Sailing. Even so, both will be hard-put to outsell the memoirs of the Duchess of Argyll, of Rose (My Life in Service) and of Jimmy Chipperfield and Evelyn Home. There are also biographies of Judy Garland, Mohammed Ali and Margaret Thatcher (three each) and indeed it does look like being a showbiz Christmas; David Niven and ShirleyMaclaine return with more memoirs, whilst other autobiographers include Margot Fonteyn, Max Wall, Brian Rix, Uri Geller, Vera Lynn, Michael Bentine and Harry Secombe. The nostalgia factor should weigh heavily in favour of Susan Briggs's Keep Smiling Through: The Home Front 1939-45. Jack Priestley discusses his own Particular Pleasures which almost certainly do not include The Pirelli Calendar but Pan's £7.50 reproduction 'will still do very well. Other period pieces include three volumes of letters by Lloyd George, Queen Victoria and Virginia Woolf. From the barrel of books on oil the one with the extra ingredient is Anthony Sampson's The Seven Sisters, Mr Solzhenitsyn will also give us part 2 of his Gulag but this is all getting too serious. At Christmas the British public will prefer to escape with Guinness, travel or gourmet guides, and the novels of the stick-to-your-last specialists: Dick Francis, Victoria Holt, Catherine Cookson, Norah Lofts, Dorothy Eden, Paul Gallico, and Dame Agatha. Freddie Forsyth has continued to put typewriter to paper with a short story called The Shepherd, whilst Alastir Maclean (Circus) and Arthur Hailey (The Moneychangers) will still be selling in December. James Clavell, author of Shotgun, has just transferred to Hodder and should be getting a little extra love and attention. Few of these novels, however, will be able to compete with My Lord John, the last work of the late Georgette Heyer. Another posthumous novel is Wodehouse's World of Ultridge which may well be funny but its price of £5.95 isn't.

Rimer Godden leads the heavier-weights with Margaret Drabble, Saul Bellow, V. S. Naipaul, Anthony Powell, Laurens van der Post and Graham Greene (reprinted short stories) in pursuit. Bookbuyer's fiction outsiders: Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery (19th century style), Jack Higgins's war-time epic The Eagle Has Landed, a Middle East thriller called Saladinl by Andrew Osmond, and Diana Pearson's historical Csardas.

I do not expect price to be a barrier for really attractive non-fiction, People will happily lay out £7.50 for Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell; £9 for In Vogue, £10.50 for The World Atlas of Exploration or The Oxford Companion to the Decorative Arts; £17.50 for A Victorian Album; £26 for the Times Atlas and even £45 (spyglass included) for the Compact Dictionary of National Biography. But Hamlyn and Octopus will also be bestselling their lowerpriced cookery, gardening and leisure books. For children, several old hands have new books — Maurice Sendak, Graham Oakley, Eric Carle, Raymond Briggs, Richard Scarry, Elizabeth Beresford and Michael Bond. But look out for something called Fifteen Rabbits and — Bookbuyer's hotest tip of all — Nicola Bayley's Book of Nursery Rhymes.