Veteran novelist & ghost-writer James Reasoner weighs in on the Michael Gruber debate and, as it happens, has a point-of-view that I share…

I don’t know the details of the
contract(s) between Gruber and Tanenbaum, but if Gruber agreed that he
wouldn’t reveal he was writing the books, then he shouldn’t have
revealed it. I understand the frustration he must have felt — I once
ghosted a book that got glowing blurbs from big-name folks who never
would have blurbed a book with my name on it — but a deal’s a deal.

He also talks about the unspoken rules about writing series novels under the publisher’s "house names."

Of course there are varying
degrees of secrecy on these things. Some of my house-name Western
contracts say that I can’t publicly claim authorship but that I can use
the books as professional credits within the industry.

I’m sure it’s common knowledge in publishing circles that folks like Margaret Truman and William Shatner, for example, don’t write their own books and that editors are well aware of who really does do the work… but I doubt most readers know when, or if, they are reading ghosted books. I’m sure there are readers out there who think Don Pendleton writes all those EXECUTIONER novels…

Speaking of James Reasoner, mystery fan Aldo Calcagno raves aboutthe author today on Ed Gorman’s blog.

Reasoner may be one of the most underrated writers
around today. TEXAS WIND is a classic, but how many people have had the
opportunity to read it (Thankfully PointBlank has republished the book).

2 thoughts on “Ghosting”

  1. I stumbled across a recent Tanenbaum novel in the remainder bin… and the dedication virtual states that Gruber wrote the book:
    “Again, and yet again, all praise belongs to Michael Gruber, whose genius and scholarship flow throughout and who is primarily and solely responsible for the excellence of this manuscript and whose contribution cannot be overstated.”
    What’s left to say except: Written By Michael Gruber?

  2. Interesting — to me, anyway — sidelight to the whole ghosting issue. I just read an article about Mark Lester, the nine-year old boy who starred in the 1960s musical film Oliver. Aside from being praised for his great performance as an actor, he got raves for the brilliance of his singing voice.
    Now, 36 years later, it’s revealed that Lester simply couldn’t sing. He was cast for his acting ability, but he couldn’t carry a tune. So a month or two before the film’s replaced, the musical director had his daughter re-record all Oliver’s songs. It’s her voice that’s heard in the film.
    When reached for a comment — and I’m sorry I can’t remember where I read the article — the woman in question admitted she’d done the singing but said that all the glory for the performance should go to Mark Lester, not her. And Lester himself, now a practicing osteopath — good to know there’s a real life available for some former child stars! — had no problem admitting that he was dubbed.
    I think it was much less of a secret that Marni Nixon provided the singing voices for both Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady and Natalie Wood in West Side Story. There doesn’t seem to be much shame in admitting that, unlike a writer using a ghost. I wonder if that’s because with the actresses, you can see that they are delivering what they’re expected to — we want to see Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, even if she can’t sing. But an author who can’t write his own books is more like Ashlee Simpson — if singing is all she has to offer, and she can’t do that, why are we wasting our time with her?


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