No matter where you go on the planet you will find tales of the supernatural. Spirits, spooks and spectres are everywhere. However, there is one reclusive mythical creature that particularly sparks fear in literary hearts – the ghostwriter.
They are the hired guns of the publishing world, paid to produce and then melt away unseen. Words for cash – no questions asked. The work is never-ending - there are the high profile celebrities who have not picked up a book since kindergarten but now need an autobiography and the estates of dead authors, like V.C. Andrews and Robert Ludlum, who wish to keep the novels coming.
Some ghostwriters have a place in history. Carolyn Keene is as fictional as the teen sleuth that she was supposed to have created, Nancy Drew. In reality, Carolyn was a pseudonym for a series of ghostwriters who wrote book after book based on a template and an expected style.
James Patterson admits he is simply more proficient at dreaming up plots than crafting sentence after sentence. He often credits his ghostwriters as “co-authors” on his covers. Peter de Jonge is one author who used to ‘ghost’ for Patterson but has now published his novel, Shadows Still Remain.Many ghostwriters sign non-disclosure agreements to ensure they stay in the shadows, but often the identity of the true author emerges. John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage was actually ghost-written by his speechwriter Theodore Sorenson. This was denied for years but Sorenson admitted to writing large sections of the book in his 2009 autobiography, Counselor.
You might be surprised to see who else has been a ghostwriter.
Lovecraft did a large amount of ghostwriting for various patrons, including Under the Pyramids (also known as Imprisoned With the Pharaohs) for Harry Houdini.
Lewis wrote this book for McLoughlin 15 years before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
War poet Graves wrote the forward for Richards but it’s also believed he wrote the entire book. Richards served with Graves in WWI.
Gibson had already created his best known character, The Shadow, but still took time to write a number of books and articles on magic for Dunninger, a famous mystic.
Sturgeon’s Ellery Queen (a pseudonym for Frederic Dannay & Manfred B. Lee) contribution has been described as one of the best in the series. Sturgeon apparently said: “90 per cent of everything is crud.”
Vance wrote three contributions to the Ellery Queen series. The other two Vance works were The Four Johns and A Room To Die In.
Porter’s first published book, in a career that would eventually lead to a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, was this biography.
Ramsey Ullman was a mountaineer who wrote Sherpa Tenzing’s autobiography in the same year as he won the Newbery Award for Banner in the Sky.
Leo Guild has been labelled the worst pulp novelist ever. His artistic liberties caused Lamarr to sue her publisher over inaccuracies in her own autobiography.
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