January 2011

In the meantime the interviews went on. With Angela Levin for the Mail on Sunday, a great journalist (with whom over forty years ago I worked at Butterworth’s, a publisher of law books, trying to write sparkling copy on Capital Gains Tax), with Lucy Cavendish of The Times, who writes charming family novels, other ace journalists Richard Barber for Hello, and Rosanna Greenstreet for The Guardian.
Good housekeeping interviewed me and my sweet housekeeper Ann Mills on why we were such friends I also talked to the P.A., the Financial Times, Time Out, Tatler, the Independent, O.K. Magazine, Woman and Home and Cotswold Life.

On reflection I must be a publicist’s nightmare. Whenever a journalist rolls up, as an ex-journalist I’m far more interested in finding out who’s been sleeping with whom, or who’s nicked whose job than saying, “now about this horse” and talking about the book.

It was a pleasure to catch up with an old friend Jossie Dimbleby when we did an interview for the Independent on Sunday on, “How we met in Putney in the Seventies”. Jossie, who has exquisite taste, lives in an enchanting house in Chiswick. We were photographed in her equally enchanting garden by a somewhat supercilious young man, who announced he was an art photographer, and only photographed people like Jossie and me to pay the bills.

Meanwhile the reviews were coming in. Opening The Times Book Pages, one evening, I discovered the first from Kate Saunders, tensed, then sighed with relief to read: “This is Cooper in top form”. Oh dear, Kate!

The next was by Olivia Laing in The Observer: “At her best”, she wrote. “Jilly Cooper has a genius for bonding soft focus romance with the beady, pitiless social comedy of Jane Austen or at least Nancy Mitford”: oh wow! “And a near magical ability to conjure up a world and populate it with people for whom you feel a deep affection”. Then blissfully she concluded: “I’ll eat my hat if when Rupert Campbell-Black finally kicks the bucket he doesn’t get at the very least an obituary in The Telegraph, if not a full-blown state funeral”.

Steve Dennis was equally funny in the Racing Post, and said that the two children of my grandmother heroine were “two of the most cartoonishly dreadful characters in literature – King Lear never knew his luck.”

I used to divide writers into pop authors like me and Jeffrey Archer who longed and longed for a kind word in The Guardian, and literary authors who got wonderful reviews in The Guardian and longed for our sales. I was therefore bowled over by a lovely Guardian piece by Jess Cartner-Morely, who wrote that “JUMP! was hugely entertaining, touching and funny, and again Jilly Cooper has a winner”. Oh bless her.
And bless Julia Llewellyn Smith in the Daily Mail who wrote that “the descriptions of the glorious Cotswold country are some of the most lyrical ever written and her comedy of manners rival Nancy Mitford if not Jane Austen”.

Marvellous reviews followed from Rachel Johnson in the Mail on Sunday, Henry Sutton, who made JUMP! Book of the Week in the Daily Mirror, Liz Hoggard, in the Evening Standard, Sara Lawrence twice in the Daily Mail, Emma Lee Potter in the Sunday Express, Edal Coffey in the Irish Independent, Melissa Kite in the Spectator, Rosie Boycott in The Oldie, Kate Green in Country Life and Kate Barry in the Times Literary Supplement, who said JUMP! was ‘sharp, funny and touching” and “I knew how to work a winning formula.”

Reeling with delight and amazement, I set off with Nicky for a heavenly 24 hours in Dublin, staying at the glorious, ravishingly redecorated Shelbourne Hotel, which is featured in JUMP!, as are Leopardstown races.
I was overwhelmed to be given the Peter O’Toole Suite, (where evidently he once bathed in champagne) which was huge and incredibly luxurious, where I proceeded to do lovely interviews with the Irish Independent and the Irish Examiner and with Amanda Brunker for the Sunday World, whose sexy novel, Champagne Babes has just been published.

Despite the fact that Ireland was reeling from news of a terrifying financial crisis, everyone I met managed to be heroically merry particularly at a marvellous party which my friend publicist Jaques Malone organised at the hotel in the evening. Among the guests was William Mullins who must be the most charming trainer in the world. He and his lovely wife Jackie dined with us later and he kept us in stitches about a wayward horse called Holy Orders, who when he was in training walked down the village street, kicking out wing mirrors and when he was flown out at vast expense to run in the Melbourne Cup, refused to get out of a trot because he so missed his normal stable lad. After dinner I floated up to my lovely suite, which had so many rooms, I kept sending out search parties to find myself. Up very early the next morning to go on television, I was grateful for an inspired make-up artist at Ireland A.M. The interview with Sinead Desmond and Mark Cagney, a very glamorous couple, went really well, probably because I was still a bit tight from the night before. After chatting to David Harvey on 4 F.M., I had a lovely interview with another old friend Pat Kenny, who is such a joy to talk to, you always forget you’re on air.

Back at the Shelbourne for another interview with Emily Hourgan of the Sunday Independent, where we were all transfixed with interest to learn that Bill Clinton was staying there and hung around, desperate to catch a glimpse. A photographer later told us that on a previous evening Clinton had dined secretly with Tony Blair and Gerry Adams, almost as scary a combo as the three witches in Macbeth!

Back from Ireland, I had hardly drawn breath before I had to scamper up the road to the Cheltenham Festival, and within a few minutes had seen Martin Amis, Peter Mandelson and Alastair Campbell and Susan Hill drifting by. On the Saturday morning, I joined Salman Rushdie, and Judith Kerr (who writes glorious children’s books about Mog the Cat and The Tiger who came to Tea) on the Sky Book Show.

We were interviewed in triplicate by Mariella Frostrup, who is so pretty and such a pro, that she put us all at our ease and made each of us feel she was really interested in our books.

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