by Matt Lynn
Lynda La Plante created a stir at the recent Specsavers Crime & Thriller Awards with an attack on 'celebrity' fiction by the likes of Katie Price, Martine McCutcheon, and soon, heaven help us, Cheryl Cole.
She chewed up the assembled publishers for spending their money on 'drivel' rather than supporting real authors. "The publishing industry is going to implode. They can't pay the millions to these celebrities," she complained.
In the Telegraph, Nigel Farndale wrote a perceptive piece about her attack, arguing that ghost-writed rubbish for Slebs was as likely to put off young people from reading as encouraging them. And Martin Amis is planning to make Price a character in his next novel (I'm looking forward to that).
One point that people miss however is that ghost-writing is far more common than people realise. And the readers are, essentially, getting ripped off.
In fairness, someone like Katie Price makes no pretence of writing her books. The ghost gets credit, and is well-known.
But, as someone who did a fair bit of ghost-writing before writing 'Death Force', I am well aware that is far more widespread than most people realise. Quite a few of the thrillers on the best-sellers list are ghosted by 'authors' who actually claim to the writers of the books.
That strikes me, looking back on the experience, as far more deceitful.
There is no question that the books are a lot worse than the writer could do if they were working under their own name. The first couple of books I ghosted I took quite a lot of care over. But after doing it for a about five years, I was just churning them out fairly cynically for the money. The 'author' couldn't be bothered with the book, nor could the editor, and, after a while, nor could I. The plots were full of holes, the characters weird, and the typos horrendous: in one of them, even the dedication was mis-spelt, although I was probably the only person who noticed.
So people are gettting a sub-standard, slap-dash book, that no one really cares about.
And it is very hard to see how anyone really benefits from that.
With another hat on, I spend a fair bit of time as a business journalist.
And one thing you notice that really distinguishes good businesses from bad ones is that the they care about making a decent product.
The publishers putting out sleb fiction seem to have forgotten that. I suspect at some point they will pay a fairly heavy price for that.