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By Evelyn Waugh

After seven years of marriage, the gorgeous girl Brenda final has grown uninterested in lifestyles at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that's the satisfaction and pleasure of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. In a unique that mixes tragedy, comedy, and savage irony, Evelyn Waugh indelibly captures the irresponsible temper of the "crazy and sterile generation" among the wars.

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This kind of dynamic chart was first developed, in its most effective form, in popular music, where ‘number one’ is so valuable a property that unscrupulous impresarios have been prepared to bribe outlets with payola to get it. So too, from time to time, have publishers in the US been suspected of storming those outlets used to compile the lists with suborned purchasers. Increasingly, publishers are willing to buy premium display places on shop floors (or web store sites), and discount savagely, less to sell copies than to get the title into the top ten, or 20, or 50.

Since, as a World War I nurse in 1916, she wrote (while on short leave) The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920), Christie’s scores of detective stories have sold, at rough calculation, two billion copies worldwide (she is, for example, the best-ever-selling novelist in France, outdoing even Georges Simenon). Her novels still sell – year in, year out – in their millions. The Guinness Book of Records nominates her as the bestselling (the very bestselling) novelist ever. The Case of Christie (to adapt the favourite title formula of one of her disciples, Ellery Queen) highlights a crux in the use of 36 the term ‘bestseller’.

Hobson in Gentleman’s Agreement (#1 novel in 1947; ‘a banned book, a number one title, 45 The American bestseller Stowe’s was also the first American novel to be a runaway bestseller in Britain, levelling up cross-Atlantic inequities a (very) little. The London publisher, George Smith, was gratified, on his journey to work, to perceive all six people in his first-class carriage reading his (pirated) edition of Stowe’s novel. It was some consolation for the wholesale Yankee pirating of his Jane Eyre, five years earlier.

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