Sunday, March 25, 2007


I've commented before on the business of one writer ghosting another writer's book. Writer one gets sick; falls off the wagon; wife dumps him. Something amiss anyway. He can't do the book. He asks a friend. Friend writes the book, it's published and is credited (unless it's a house name job) to the bibliography of writer number one.

Nobody will ever know. Well, almost nobody.

This is not a new process. It may well have gone on back in Shakespeare's time.

I bring this up because I admire a novel by Leigh Brackett called STRANGER AT HOME. I've been assured she didn't write it. I also admire a novel by Henry Kuttner called MAN DROWNING. Apparently it's an open secret that Cleve Cartmill wrote it.

I guess I have to accept this scuttlebutt as fact. But I wonder. Brackett's style--that sweeping almost mythic prose--is very much in evidence in Stranger. I grew up reading her. I know from Leigh Brackett. I find it difficult to believe that she didn't at least go through somebody else's first draft and make it her own.

As for the Kuttner, a man I admire as much as I admire Brackett, if Drowning is actually by Cleve Cartmill then Cartmill was suicidal when he wrote it. I also know from Cartmill. I can't recall a single Cartmill novel that displays this sense of loss and despair. Despite the fact that Harpers published this in hardcover, this is very much a true Gold Medal novel. And the grotesque woman who hires the protagonist is right out of Kuttner. Not Cartmill. Did Cartmill do the first draft and Kuttner the polish?

See the trouble you get into when you try to fool people?


Dave Zeltserman said...

Then you have Mr. Arkadin supposedly written by Orson Welles, but when interviewed by Peter Bogdanovich, Welles states flatly he didn't write it, but then when Bogdanovich complements the book, Welles then backtracks on that, saying "maybe I did write it after all."

Ed Gorman said...

Welles had three great pictures in him. The studio saw fit to make that two and a half (they butchered Ambersons). But what rarely gets mentioned is that Welles could have stayed and fought for his cut. Instead he went off to South America (?) to make a documentary. He didn't have the patience for long months of editing. I once heard the recording of a studio session for Gallo wine with Welles as the voice over. They were paying him huge dollars for pretty easy work. His tirades, his insults, his pettiness bordered on the psychotic. I don't have much if any respect for advert people either. But the way he treated them was inexcusable. He died a pathetic figure.

Anonymous said...

Ghosting is a huge, never-ending topic, by its very nature fraught with secrecy and speculation. Sounds like Cartmill must have been everybody's favourite ghost. The other day you posted on Charteris's Saint stories. I'm told that Cartmill ghost-wrote "The Saint Steps In" (1943) and other Saint stories. Kuttner wrote "King of the Beggars" (1947, The American magazine and in "Call for the Saint"). And in the 1960s, British crime writer Nigel Morland told me he had ghosted a Saint story in 1938 -- yes, that early -- and that it eventually appeared in one of the three yarns in "Follow the Saint". In the early 1960s, I was asked to contribute
original scripts for a Saint comic book. I know I wrote at least one that was used, but I was up to my neck at the time in editing and script work for Micron Publications, so I handed the request on to another crime writer, Vic J. Hanson.

Juri said...

I seem to remember - and I could be 100% wrong - that Welles wrote the original French novel on MR. ARKADIN, but he didn't want it to be translated into English and he tried to disown the English version.