DIARY: Planner's romance hits bookshelves

Modern-day Arthurian romances set in planning departments are a pretty rare phenomenon, but "chick-lit" authoress Jenny Colgan has managed it in her latest novel, Working Wonders.

In it, we see hapless town planner Arthur Pendleton chase the holy grail of European City of Culture status for the gleaming metropolis that is Coventry, while fighting a rival bid from Slough. As if that is not work enough, he also has to fight for the hand of alluring management consultant Gwyneth Morgan.

Many planners will no doubt recognise the tribulations of photocopier rage, Lynx-scented bosses and office computer geeks. Poor Arthur finds that he cannot even plan lunch, let alone a EU bid. But will Coventry ever receive the accolade it so richly deserves?

Colgan, who worked for the NHS before becoming a writer, says that she decided to write about a town planner "because they are not written about very often but their influence on our lives is so enormous". And the location?

"All Coventrians now hate me, but I personally detest books set in made-up places like Manchesterford, so I had to pick somewhere," she admits.

"Plus, let's face it, neither Coventry nor Slough are high-water marks of the town planner's art."

Rather than subject herself to hours examining PPGs, Colgan's research was confined to "watching and reading a lot of comedy and attempting to write funny pieces for newspapers". But mindful of any shortcomings, she adds: "I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all the dedicated planners out there for my many and repeated errors."


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