Good old writers

Who says old geezers can't write? Some of them die with the sharpest minds. That's certainly true of the literary critic Frank Kermode, who has just died at the age of 90.

Reading about his death yesterday, I turned to his essays published in the London Review of Books. You can't tell his age from his essay on TS Eliot published in May this year. It is the work of an academic writing at the top of his form.

There are other old writers who have not lost their powers.

Let's begin with the journalists.

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Top guns: Britain’s favourite crime writers

American thriller writer James Patterson is very popular with library users in Britain. Not only is he the author of Sail, the most borrowed book last year, but of 17 others on the list of 250 most borrowed books. Most of them, however, were collaborations with other authors.

That leaves the field clear for another American, Patricia Cornwell, to claim the honour of being the favourite crime writer of library users in Britain. She authored five books on the list: The Front, No 7; Book Of The Dead, 22; Scarpetta, 78; At Risk, 81; and Predator, 205.

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Books most borrowed in America, Britain, Singapore

American thriller writer James Patterson is the author whose books are borrowed most often from libraries in America and Britain. Malcolm Gladwell topped the non-fiction list in America with Outliers: The Story of Success, according to Library Journal.com.

American authors dominate the list of 250 books borrowed most often in Britain in 2009.

Patterson is followed by the romantic writers Nora Roberts and Danielle Steel.

Only two of the 10 most borrowed books in Britain were by British writers: The Outcast by Sadie Jones and Friday Nights by Joanna Trollope.

Here are the top 10 lists for Britain, America and Singapore. The Singapore list is for the National Library Board's financial year 2008.

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Ruth Rendell at 78

Who would believe she's 78? But that's Ruth Rendell as seen in a Telegraph profile which appeared on Sunday.

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The hair is dyed but she looks amazingly youthful — maybe because she exercises daily and walks and takes the train to the House of Lords, where she is a member.

No less amazing is how she became a writer. She was fired as a newspaper reporter after reporting on a club dinner which she did not attend, says the Telegraph, adding:

She would have got away with it had the after-dinner speaker not died mid-speech.

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