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THE GHOST by Robert Harris

THE GHOST

By Robert Harris

Pub Date: Oct. 23rd, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4165-5181-2
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Big money lures a professional ghostwriter into a rush job—rewriting the memoirs of the former British prime minister in a month. By the way, the last guy on the job may have been murdered.

Harris (Imperium, 2006, etc.) returns with an amusing, fast-paced thriller that inserts a non-political writer into the life of an out-of-office but still controversial British politician, Adam Lang, who bears a marked resemblance to Tony Blair. Purely coincidental, of course. The narrator is a ghostwriter who, teasingly, is never named. He’s made a living turning the semi-reliable memories of a wide range of celebrities into readable “autobiographies,” a highly specialized career that, with his Cambridge education, makes him the right man to earn $250,000 turning the turgid draft of Lang’s memoirs into something someone would actually want to read. The publisher, having advanced $10,000,000 and committed to a publication date one month hence, is desperate. Lang’s longtime political assistant wrote the wretched draft after much research, but either flung himself or was flung from the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, where the ex-PM is holed up with wife and staff in the publisher’s cottage until the book is fixed. Just as the writer is getting a grasp on the work, Lang is charged by the World Court with war crimes for a deed he may have committed on behalf of the Yanks, who are still bogged down in Iraq. It’s the perfect hook for the rewrite, but the charge puts the household in a world-class dither. And it sends the writer deeper into Lang’s past. The more he learns, the less he likes Lang’s long involvement with the Americans, a relationship that cooked him politically in Britain. And the less he comes to trust Lang’s official memories. When he stumbles on materials collected by his late predecessor, it becomes clear that the dead biographer learned far too much about the politician—information that threatens everybody, including the ghostwriter.

Very slick, rather tense, sophisticated and amusing.