Philip Pullman's new book will be given its world launch at the 12th Oxford Literary Festival next month.

Mr Pullman will be opening the window into Once Upon A Time In The North, the long-awaited prequel to the His Dark Materials trilogy.

It will be one of the highlights of the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival, which will feature more than 250 writers between March 31 and April 6.

Mr Pullman's appearance at Oxford Town Hall on March 31 will ensure a memorable launch for both his book and the festival. But the 30,000 people who will be drawn to Oxford for the week-long event, hosted by Christ Church, will have plenty more to look forward to.

The playwright Tom Stoppard will be talking about his work with fiction critic Peter Kemp on Sunday, April 6, and there will be two intimate dinners with foreign correspondents Martin Bell and Sir Mark Tully.

Other speakers include David Almond, Melvyn Burgess, Melvyn Bragg, Louis de Bernieres, Joanne Harris, Roy Hattersley, Charlie Higson, Shirley Hughes, Lisa Jardine, Oona King, Hanif Kureshi, James Naughtie, Sebastian Peake, Lionel Shriver, Sir Roy Strong and Fay Weldon.

As usual, local authors will be strongly represented.

This year's line-up includes scientist and best-selling author Richard Dawkins, former Foreign Secretary Lord Hurd and poet Tom Paulin.

This year, for the first time, the festival will be running a week-long creative writing course, based at Corpus Christi College, with Jem Poster as course tutor.

The week-long full-board residency will include master classes by John Carey, Joanne Harris, PD James, Peter Kemp and DJ Taylor.

Tickets are available from Tickets Oxford at the Oxford Playhouse, on 0870 3431001.