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Saturday, February 28, 1998 Published at 09:22 GMT


Authors revolt over book ban
image: [ Fay Weldon, one of Britain's best known authors, has criticised the company's motivations ]
Fay Weldon, one of Britain's best known authors, has criticised the company's motivations

Fay Weldon tells BBC Radio Four's Today programme it's hard to find a pure employer (2' 20")
A group of leading authors whose works are published by Rupert Murdoch's company, HarperCollins, say they are thinking of leaving the firm after it gave up plans to publish a book by the former Hong Kong governor, Chris Patten.

Writers including the novelists Fay Weldon and Doris Lessing are unhappy at reports that Mr Murdoch wanted to drop the book because it might damage his business interests in China.

[ image: Chris Patten is suing Mr Murdoch's company for breach of contract]
Chris Patten is suing Mr Murdoch's company for breach of contract
Another of the authors, the historian Peter Hennessy, has also criticised the company.

"Nobody in their right minds would ever give HarperCollins a book again," he said, describing Mr Murdoch as "the greatest contaminator of modern times."

Mr Patten said the decision not to publish his book had come "as an awful shock" after he had delivered the first 70,000 words of his manuscript last month.

He has now signed a new publishing deal with Macmillan and is suing HarperCollins for breach of contract.

In a statement, News Corporation admitted that Mr Murdoch, who has denied attempting to have the book re-written, had "expressed dissatisfaction with Mr Patten's book".

"Rupert Murdoch ... made his view clear to HarperCollins when he first learned the book had been commissioned," the statement said.

"[He] did not agree with many of Patten's positions in Hong Kong which he thought abrogated promises made by the previous government."

The publishers, who paid a £50,000 ($83,000) advance for the book, due out in September, said they had pulled out of the deal on February 10 because the first six chapters of the manuscript did not meet "reasonable expectations".

But a senior HarperCollins executive Stuart Proffitt, who resigned earlier this week because of the affair, told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that this was completely untrue.

Mr Proffitt is also suing the publishers for constructive dismissal.

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