If you expect muck on his famous clients, prepare to be disappointed
I don’t normally do book reviews.
It isn’t because I lack appreciation for the creative input of authors whose hundreds and hundreds of books I have read over many years.
My love, in fact, for reading and my unstinting admiration for many authors had energised me greatly in my writing career.
But, I must undertake a review this time. This book, I believe, will give insights and provide startling truths into the lives of people hidden from ordinary mortals like us.
This book may even serve as an inspiration or as motivation to aspiring and professional writers to explore the possibilities of being a ghostwriter.
Would Crofts’ confession be identical to
the central character in The Ghost by Robert Harris?
I had no expectations when, one lazy Saturday afternoon in one of England’s high street bookshops, I nonchalantly picked up Andrew Crofts’ Confessions of a Ghostwriter. I was merely curious about what his confessions would be.
Will there be saucy revelations in store for the readers?
Would Crofts’ confessions be as suspenseful as the unnamed central character who is a ghostwriter, in Robert Harris’ The Ghost?
Part of the blurb on the back cover of Confessions of a Ghostwriter was actually awesome. It says (highlight is mine):
He’s written more than 80 books. He’s
sold millions of copies across the
world. He is the man behind a dozen
Sunday Times Top 10 hits, spending
over 120 weeks in the bestseller charts.
But you probably haven’t heard of him.
Quite right, I hadn’t heard of him (sorry, #AndrewCrofts), until that day when I bought his book.
But what follows after the above blurb cinched my interest:
Andrew Crofts is a ghostwriter, an author for hire,
employed to write other people’s stories – everyone
from film stars to footballers, hitmen to hookers, world
leaders to abused children…
The book’s Introduction
Crofts’ one-page intro is warmly engaging. Writers, whether aspiring or working professionals, may find encouragement in exploring the world of ghosting (nah, not the new colloquial term referring to suddenly cutting off contact with someone close without any explanation). What writer worth his/her salt would not be fascinated by “a path that was paved with a constant stream of adventures” as Crofts confessed.
He also cited the joys of living “the pleasant life of a writer, [his] days unencumbered by hours of crowded commuting or unnecessary meetings in bleakly lit offices with people…” who were not interesting. As this book was first published in 2014, years before the infamous Covid restrictions, I’d say that Crofts had unwittingly glorified working from home.
100 Confessions of ‘ghostwriter for hire’
Crofts’ confessions are divided into 100 informal, informative and interesting anecdotes.
Like the introduction, every confession is a breeze to read. Most are short, and some are peppered with dry humour.
The titles are compelling, too, some of which are the following:
- An eight-foot transsexual hooker in the living room (p2)
- Sacked by a glove puppet (p32)
- Tyrants and other interesting monsters (p43)
- A real-life Shades of Grey (p59)
- Win a ghost of your own (p100)
- A hit-man comes to lunch (p222)
- Ordinary people who do extraordinary things (p226)
- The Pope’s secret mistress (p240)
- Who moved my nuts? (p243)
- Meeting the daughter of God (p259)
Manna from heaven
His confessions covered how he stumbled into the world of ghosting (Discovering Ghostwriting, page9). A management guru living in a mansion and driving a blue Rolls Royce asked Crofts to ghostwrite a series of business books. The guru had no time to do the writing, and he already had a publisher.
The proposal was like manna from heaven, although it took five seconds for Crofts to realise it as such.
This ghostwriting project went smoothly, and that’s when Crofts started advertising himself as a “ghostwriter for hire”.
On freelance work and speculative writing
A number of anecdotes touched on the early days of his writing career, the disappointments or perhaps disillusionment, things that many writers can relate to. The same can be said about his piece on freelance work and money (Filthy lucre, p52).
Crofts was frank about how the income stream from freelancing and/or speculative writing could be like being on a “financial treadmill” – unless one gets to be as lucky (and talented!) as J.K. Rowling.
However, what hit me the most personally is this passage (highlight is mine):
“… concentrating on the writing of books as your sole source of income, you are going to have to grow ruthless in your self-discipline both in the projects that you agree to take on and in the hours that you work. It is a fabulous way to earn a living, but keeping the money coming in is grindingly and relentlessly distracting.” – Andrew Crofts (p53)
Global travel and meeting famous / infamous people
Crofts, in his confessions, takes the readers to many parts of the world where clients (with a done deal, or just potential) invited him. One was in Africa (unspecified, for obvious reason) where a million books sat untouched in a warehouse (p5). Crofts had ghostwritten the book for the president of the country.
Another was in the Philippines (p45) where he had lunch in Manila with Imelda Marcos who, at the time, was Metro Manila Governor, Minister for Human Settlement and First Lady to Ferdinand Marcos. Still in the Philippines (p233), Crofts takes the readers to Baguio where he and the other international journalists were invited to meet a “very important man” in the country.
Other places and personalities mentioned in the book included Haiti, Switzerland, Dubai, Croatia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Egypt, Mrs Hosni Mubarak, unnamed princesses, among others.
Impressive highlight among many other highlights
Crofts, in his Confessions book, included what is evidently a high spot in a (ghost)writer’s career.
Before the publication of Confessions of a Ghostwriter, Crofts’ handbook on Ghostwriting saw print a decade earlier. This handbook was one of the few books ordered by Thomas Harris, for research purposes for his novel, The Ghost, a political thriller that was later made into a film. The central character in the novel is a ghostwriter, hence, the need for reference by Harris.
It’s safe to assume that Crofts’ handbook on ghostwriting impressed Harris, or why else would the latter include a quote from Crofts at the start of each chapter of The Ghost? As Crofts wrote, his Ghostwriting handbook caught the imagination of Harris, thus helping him envision “the world of his leading (and unnamed) character”.
While I read the ‘Mr Harris would like to quote you’ anecdote on pages 112-114, I finally recognised this remarkable (ghost)writer. It was akin to an aha moment.
The next time I’m in a bookshop, I’ll make certain to look for other books by Andrew Crofts.
You should, too.
Ghostwriting may also appeal to you.
First published on Medium.
Thank you for reading!