Many of her fellow fans on the liberal left were outraged when MELANIE PHILLIPS began to get a little meaner in her older age and before they knew it she was no longer a Guardian columnist but was too busy blazing a trail for another sect in the Daily Mail. That’s one instance of a ship being well jumped but who else has wanted to try out the grass on the other side?

I Cat Stevens Once upon a time. he was lil' old Cat Stevens. a performer of insipid folk records with words like ‘tillerman' in them. Before you can say ‘fatwa'. he's Yusuf Islam. a fundamentalist Muslim condoning threats to Salman Rushdie's life. Still. at least we don’t have to hear his songs anymore.

I Winston Churchill He started his political career as a Liberal. even claiming the seat for the party in Dundee but ended up being the Tories' favourite morning whisky-guzzling. stogey-chomping icon. Even Labour seem to like him. with Mo Mowlam successfully championing his cause in the Great Britons series.

I Maurice Johnston On the day that Maurice Johnston was paraded in a Celtic strip before the media. few could have imagined that two weeks later the same man would be introduced at Ibrox as Rangers' first major Catholic signing. Death threats arrived from nutters on both sides but a meat pie thrown from the terraces was the closest SuperMo/Judas came to physical harm.

I Marie Warner She started off series two of 24 as an innocent. petite blonde set for her wedding to a man suspected of plotting to detonate a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. But Marie (pictured) suddenly turned into a pSyChO witch from hell. murdering her intended and threatening to kill her sister before being mercilessly tortured by Jack Bauer and ending up strapped to a chair in a dimly lit holding cell doing a very nice Hannibal Lecter impersonation.

I Water into wine The neatest and possibly oldest trick in the book.

Melanie Phillips. 23 Aug, 5pm, £7 (£5).


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40 years of brilliant Americana

What does he see in wrestling?

After two years of hoping and wishing, of unerring devotion met with a wall of silence, it‘s nice to finally hear those three little words: work in progress. Yes, John Irving has scribbled down a few lines of prose and. as ever. his legion of adoring fans are chomping at the bit to read them. While his last novel. The Fourth Hand was too slight to really satisfy. its predecessor. A Widow for One Year contained enough nourishment to last a decade. Not that we’ll have to wait that long Irving‘s been churning out his unique brand of contemporary American fiction since 1962, when Setting Free the Bears first hit the shelves. So it‘s only a matter of time before the aforementioned ongoing novel gets dressed up in a book jacket.

In the meantime, we can hear it spoken by the man himself, at arguably the two most exciting events of this year's Book Festival. An evening rendezvous is followed by a ‘Meet the Author‘ session the following morning. They’re both sold out. of course, but if you’ve already got a ticket. now’s your chance to find out some of the following: how he dreams up the endless supply of oddball characters that stay with us long after we’ve closed the book; how he penetrates our hearts with tragedies so gut wrenching it‘s as though we’ve lived them ourselves; and, most important of all, what the hell does he see in wrestling? (Kelly Apter)

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