Entertainment & Arts

Richard and Judy hit the books

Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley
Image caption The couple say they have had far more input on what books featured on the list

Eight books, two debut authors and almost all of the novels are sure to make the top 10 bestsellers chart.

The Richard and Judy Book Club is back.

Since married couple and veteran TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan launched the club in 2004 on their Channel 4 show, it has fast became one of the most popular platforms for authors to showcase their work.

"We realised, and I hate to use this word, that the Richard and Judy Book Club had become a brand in its own right," Madeley says at the press launch for the event.

They are now inundated with manuscripts on a daily basis since Madeley, 54, helped one unpublished author get a book deal.

"I wrote a review saying it was really good, and sent it off and she got commissioned straight way," he explains.

"However, that got out and since then, every morning "thump" and there's another manuscript on the doorstep. We just have to send them back, please don't send us anymore."

'Fuss and bother'

After working together on the same shows for 21 years, both stars have decided to take a rest from television. But they opted to continue with the book club.

"We had a long chat about whether we should bring it back for telly this year, but in the end we thought no - it's too much fuss and bother," Madeley says.

"We thought let's just get it out onto the high street with lots of posters and stickers, get it online - and let's just do it as a straightforward high street operation and fingers crossed, hopefully it will work."

The Book Club is exclusive to WHSmiths, which Katie Allen from trade website Bookseller says could make a difference.

"Nothing's a dead cert in publishing. They're obviously going to be a bit limited because it's only with one retailer.

"However, Richard and Judy are a brand and I think if people are seeing their names and faces on the sticker it will help.

"But also, WHSmith's primary market isn't books - it's not a book store like Waterstones or anything, so it will be interesting to see what happens."

Madeley and Finnegan will review a book every two weeks and post their reviews online, alongside interviews with the authors and reviews from book lovers across the UK.

The couple are now far more involved in deciding which books will appear on the shortlist.

"Because we're not doing the daily show anymore, we had the time to read the long list of the books. We had them all sent down to us where we were staying in France - and we just ploughed through them," Madeley says.

"But now, we've got the time and it's really nice to be completely immersed in it and to say that we chose these."

For Finnigan, 62, who is ruling out a return to TV indefinitely, working on the book club is a career highlight.

"There's no doubt that doing the Book Club for Channel 4 was one of the best things in our career - it's something that we're really really proud of," she says.

"We were astonished and very touched that people accepted our recommendations, which made us feel terrific.

"Partly because people who watch daytime television are so often unfairly criticised as being a bit mindless, or watch it because they have nothing else to do, when in fact what the success of the book club proved was that our viewers are very bright indeed and they do love reading."

At the moment she is working on her own novel - which Madeley is quick to praise.

"It's fantastic and actually I wouldn't say that because if it wasn't very good, I'd be a bit embarrassed and I'd shut up about it. I'm really proud of her," he laughs.

When asked what makes them decide on which book to pick, Madeley says it is down to the writing.

"I hate lumpy, cliched writing, and it's got to have a rattling good story."

The Snowman, written by Jo Nesbo, is a favourite of both of theirs.

Madeley calls it "one of the most frightening serial killer murder mysteries" he has ever read.

Comparing it with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo author Steig Larsson's writing, he says: "I'm not the only one who has said this - a lot of his [Larsson] stories are very slow burners - they take ages to get going.

"But I personally think that a book is failure if you have to plough through a hundred pages before it gets going. The author has failed, it should be good from page one. Our books have to grab you from chapter one."

The Richard and Judy Book Club is online now.

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