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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.

Top 10 Ghostwritten Books

The Curse of Yig by Zealia Bishop - ghostwritten by H.P. Lovecraft

1. The Curse of Yig
Zealia Bishop - Ghosted by H.P. Lovecraft


Lovecraft did a large amount of ghostwriting for various patrons, including Under the Pyramids (also known as Imprisoned With the Pharaohs) for Harry Houdini.

Daughter of the Tejas by Ophelia Ray - ghostwritten by Larry McMurtry.

2. Daughter of the Tejas
Ophelia Ray
Ghosted by Larry McMurtry


McMurtry was a frequent ghostwriter in his early career before winning Pulitzer and Academy awards.
Tennis As I Play it by Maurice McLoughlin - ghostwritten by Sinclair Lewis

3. Tennis As I Play It
Maurice McLoughlin
Ghosted by Sinclair Lewis

Lewis wrote this book for McLoughlin 15 years before winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Old-Soldier Sahib by Frank Richards - ghostwritten by Robert Graves

4. Old-Soldier Sahib
Frank Richards
Ghosted by Robert Graves

War poet Graves wrote the forward for Richards but it’s also believed he wrote the entire book.  Richards served with Graves in WWI.


Inside the Mediumís Cabinet by Joseph Dunninger

5. Inside the Mediumís Cabinet
Joseph Dunninger
Ghosted by Walter B. Gibson

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.


The Player on the Other Side by Ellery Queen ghostwritten by Theodore Sturgeon

6. The Player on the Other Side
Ellery Queen
Ghosted by Theodore Sturgeon

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.”


The Madman Theory by Ellery Queen ghostwritten by Jack Vance

7. The Madman Theory
Ellery Queen
Ghosted by Jack Vance

Vance wrote three contributions to the Ellery Queen series.  The other two Vance works were The Four Johns and A Room To Die In.


My Chinese Marriage by Mae T Franking - ghostwritten by Katherine Anne Porter

8. My Chinese Marriage
Mae T. Franking
Ghosted by Katherine Anne Porter


Porter’s first published book, in a career that would eventually lead to a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award, was this biography.

Tiger of the Snows (later called Man of Everest) by Tenzing Norgay - ghostwritten by James Ramsey Ullman

9. Tiger of the Snows (later called Man of Everest)
Tenzing Norgay
Ghosted by James Ramsey Ullman

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.  


Ecstasy and Me: My Life as a Woman by Hedy Lamarr - ghostwritten by Leo Guild

10. Ecstasy and Me: My Life As a Woman
Hedy Lamarr
Ghosted by Leo Guild

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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