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The Ghost-writers Lament

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The Ghost has another best seller. My publisher called me last week and said a bottle of champagne was en-route to me as Do The Birds Still Sing In Hell? the wartime memoirs of Horace 'Jim' Greasley had made it into the Sunday Times top ten. It had peaked earlier that week on Amazon at number four, and number one best seller in Historical Memoirs, WWII Books, POW stories, Military History, and Biographies-true accounts.

You won't have heard of Ken Scott; because I'm a just the humble ghost-writer. But I'm not complaining because I have the best job in the world and money has never been my motivation. I live in a pleasant climate and my outside desk looks out onto the Mediterranean Sea and most days I start work in my boxer shorts with a nice cup of English tea. How many people can say that? I meet incredibly interesting people on a daily basis and see from the reviews on my books, that the majority are very well received so I guess I'll try to keep on going and resist the temptation to take a 'real' job.

To be fair old Horace Greasley insisted I get a little mention for Do The Birds Still Sing in Hell? and penned a few well-chosen words and acknowledged me in the first few pages. He was a gentleman was old Horace, I loved the man dearly and we became good friends. Long after the book was finished we still shared a beer on a weekly basis. Right up until his death I visited him regularly and the family even persuaded me to do his funeral eulogy such was our mutual respect for each other. It was a true honour to talk about one of World War II's true heroes.

I wish I could ghost a book for the likes of Mr Greasley every time. It's not always the case; some books only happen when I agree to sign a non-disclosure clause and one of my authors made in excess of £300,000 from the subsequent sales and foreign rights resulting from his book. My full and final fee was £7,000.

I made a decision some years ago to go down the ghost-writer route because my family were being very selfish. My children wanted to eat and be clothed and my wife wanted a roof over her head. The three novels I had written to date made enough money to book a week's holiday in Granada and even then I had to call on the assistance of a little savings to provide the spending money. So when a gentleman came a calling and offered me a few thousand pounds in hard currency to write his book, 'Ken the Ghost' was born and the rest as they say is history and I took to my new profession like a duck to water.

You've all read ghost-written books, in fact I believe about half of the bestselling books in the stores are penned by a ghost-writer. James Patterson, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, and James Fleming have all called on the help of ghost-writers throughout their careers and even on the sad demise of a best-selling author some estates continue to churn out books written under the dead writer's name and fans queue up to add the books to their collection. It gets worse, the Nancy Drew mysteries weren't written by Carolyn Keane at all. (Shock horror) In fact Ms Keane didn't even exist; the books were a collective pseudonym for a number of ghost-writers.

The very word ghost, means we ghost-writers must, by definition, blend into the background, the unsung heroes of the literary world.

But I'll let you into a secret; I love to go to my book signings. You won't see me of course because I'm the man at the back of the store standing miles away from where the books are being signed. You may have spotted someone trying to look inconspicuous and wondered why he was standing on his own smiling; you probably thought he looked rather strange grinning like a Cheshire Cat. That was me... the ghost. While my author was chauffeur driven to and from the book store I took the underground and when the publisher took her to a champagne lunch at the Ritz I grabbed a cheese and ham sandwich outside Piccadilly Tube Station and made my way home... ecstatically happy.

Old Horace's arthritic fingers wouldn't allow him to pick up a pen and at 89 years old he couldn't quite master a keyboard, but it always makes me wonder why most of my subjects don't go it alone. They are more than capable but for the most part lack the confidence to start and finish a book. I suppose I should be thankful otherwise I'd be joining the ranks of the unemployed.

I love my profession and will keep on writing until I can no longer see or feel the keyboard. Even then I will probably hire one of those bloody ghost-writer types. Now, where's my boxer shorts, I need to go to work?

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