It's a write-on crowd

 

It's a treasure-trove of literary stars. The Wellington Room in the Merrion Hotel is packed with well-wishers, writers and some very important people from the arts world. Anne Haverty's second novel, The Far Side of a Kiss, is about to be launched. Last in the door is Noel Pearson, who has known both Haverty and her long-time friend, the writer Anthony Cronin, for "about 20 years". He arrives just in time for the speeches, which are short.

Cronin says the new book, "is absolutely lovely. To tell you the truth I didn't think Anne could reach the heights of the first again but she has surpassed them". Haverty's first novel won the Rooney Prize and was shortlisted for the 1997 Whitbread First Novel Award. Do they bounce ideas off each other while writing? "We do bat ideas off each other to some extent," Cronin says, "but I think I'm more dependent on her opinion than she on mine. I'm only the consort, you know," he adds, smiling.

Nuala O'Faolain says Haverty's first novel, One Day as a Tiger, "is the most brilliant novel for decades". And no, she rejects the idea that she could ever be prone to hyperbole. "I don't even know the woman," she argues. O'Faolain has just finished her own latest novel, which is due out in January, My Dream of You. It's "about middle-age sex", she says, as she chats to her old school pal, Carmel Naughton of Glen Dimplex, who is draped in a gold trouser suit. "What about old-age sex?" asks another friend, Joan Martin from Dundalk. "Stick around," quips O'Faolain.

Haverty, meanwhile, is hemmed in by those who want her to sign the new book - already queuing are writer Christine Dwyer Hickey and actor/singer Catherine Lynch. Is Haverty a disciplined writer? "I'm not. . . That's one of the great luxuries of writing." Is she working on a third novel? "I am, but that's a secret," says the writer, who is originally from Holy Cross in Co Tipperary.

Her two sisters and her two brothers are also here. Somewhere in the room are Colette Haverty, Geraldine Haverty, Sean Haverty and Raphael Haverty, who is here with his wife, Callie Haverty. Fellow novelist James Ryan, when pressed, whispers that his new novel, Seeds of Doubt, is coming out in January, published by Orion. "It's about how silence operates," he says cryptically. Marie Donnelly, chairwoman of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, is here, and also Louis le Brocquy and Anne Madden.

Aideen Friel, of the Merriman Summer School, is back from another successful run at Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare - where Seamus Heaney stole the show, she says, along with set-dancing teachers, Johnny Morrissey and Betty McCoy. Around the house and mind the dresser, as they say.