Monday, January 08, 2007

Exorcising Ghosts

Playing ping pong with GalleyCat today, whose post, "Who's the Lady Writer Melanie Griffith Jilted?" tells how ghostwriter Bonnie Robinson claims that Griffith reneged on a handshake deal for her autobiography. 'Cat Ron Hogan wonders whether it's the same Robinson who took a class on working with celebrities on their autobios, and concludes, "Sounds like she could use a few more pointers on deal-closing, though."

Well, yeah, but even solid closers get thrown over by celebs who develop cold feet. I've known some ghostwriters, and oh, the stories they tell! Unfortunately, none can be repeated other than orally, and only then after a few drinks and solemn vows of confidentiality.

My father was going to do his autobiography and had worked with first one, then another, writer back in the late '70s & early '80s, when he was riding high on "Hart to Hart." He ditched them both; told me something about their wanting too much money. But now I think that was just an excuse.

Subsequently I offered him my services as an interviewer and transcriber. I got the idea when I had a temp job transcribing interviews for William Zinsser's oral history of the Book of the Month Club. (I think my best temp assignment ever. It was so cool to listen to the likes of Mordechai Richler talking about books and literature.) He turned me down, I think in the next breath.

I said, "Why? It's a good way to remember the past."

He replied, "I don't want to remember the past; it's too painful."

I never brought it up again.

A few years later, Dad asked me my mother's name--her first name. No more pain.


Eric Riback said...

Key phrase: "Handshake deal."

If it's a business deal, commemorate it with a written agreement.

Therese said...

I'm intrigued with the end of your post--your dad didn't know your mother's name? I think I'm missing some pieces of this story!

As for the ghostwriter, this episode is another hard lesson learned: get it in writing!