Wednesday 4 March 2015

A Day in a Ghostwriter's Life

Some days there might be an invitation to fly to a private island on a private jet, or to spend a night lurking in the shadows of a back street brothel with a girl forced into sexual slavery. Most days, however, ghostwriters are like every other sort of writer, bashing away at our keyboards for hours on end. So, let’s pick one of the more interesting days.

Their enquiry had stood out from the usual half dozen that arrive on my screen each day. James emailed that he and his girlfriend, Penny, lived in Switzerland and were looking for a ghostwriter to tell their love story. He warned that it would contain sexual elements that many would find shocking, but that there would also be many lessons to be learnt from it. He told me they would be in London the following weekend and would be staying at the Dorchester in Park Lane. Since I was going to be in Mayfair that Sunday anyway, interviewing an African President whose memoir I was ghosting, I suggested I pop into the Dorchester once I was finished.

The President, an easily distracted man of almost infinite good humour, had to break off from our meeting to deal with a crisis and I found myself free in the middle of the day. James invited me to join them for lunch at Zuma’s, a famous Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge. Even if nothing came of the book it would be an interesting lunch and would pass the time until the President was free to resume talking.

The couple waiting at the restaurant were extremely good looking, reserved and charming at the same time, intent on making me feel comfortable in their company despite being completely wrapped up in their adoration of one another and being about to share some amazingly personal details about their lives. One chilled bottle of wine followed another as they shyly revealed their tale of true love.

They had met as teenagers and, like Romeo and Juliet, were forced apart by family pressures. Unlike Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, however, these two had been given a second chance, which they had turned into something magical and deeply erotic. By the time the espressos came I was hooked and had agreed to fly out to Switzerland the following weekend so that I could start the process of “becoming Penny” in print.

I was so in thrall to their story I only realised the whole afternoon had sped by when my phone buzzed to tell me that the President was now ready to talk again over dinner. Grabbing a cab back to Mayfair I set the tape recorder going once more and realigned my brain, submerging myself inside the head of a man clinging to power in a dark and dangerous world, many miles from the hushed luxury of the room we were going to be spending the evening in.   

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