A ghostwriter’s ghostwriter hires on to save a man from hanging in this sly import first published in Spain in 2005.
Tommy Thompson is a young English writer desperate to be published. He’ll do anything and write anything to make that happen. Through a Faustian portal enters Frank Strub, a ghostwriter’s ghostwriter who proposes that Tommy become ghostwriter to a ghostwriter to…and so it goes. Atop this ghostly totem pole perches that prince of pulp Luther Flag, whose name on a book cover in the England of 1914 has Oprah-like potency, and whose current bestseller, Pandora in the Congo, turns out to be talismanic for Tommy. It leads him to Edward Norton, the barrister charged with representing the sorely beset Marcus Garvey, who’s about to be tried for the double homicide of the aristocratic Craver brothers, mindless Richard and cunning William. The smart money heavily favors the noose. So hard-pressed is Norton for a defense that he conceives the bizarre notion of novelizing his case by hiring Tommy to ghostwrite the Marcus Garvey story, making it sympathetic, making it heartbreaking, making it clear that homicide is as inimical to Garvey as it would be to, say, the saintly hero of Pandora. Tommy enlists in the cause, but as he labors an unforeseen and certainly unbecoming alchemy takes place: He finds that he’s writing a love story. More problematically, he discovers that he’s telling the story of his own love for Garvey’s heroine.
A high-concept pastiche: part thriller, part romance, part parable, part darkest-Africa adventure. If it doesn’t quite have the pop of Piñol’s debut (Cold Skin, 2005), that’s probably because it’s more than twice as long.