‘Gardens of Stone’ started out as a simple ghostwriting project for Michael Wright, who was commissioned to turn the recollections of Stephen Grady, an English schoolboy in the French Resistance, into a full-length memoir. Such was the success of the collaboration between the 87-year-old war hero and the 47-year-old writer that the co-authored book became the subject of a bidding war between several publishers, a Sunday Times top-ten bestseller and one of the highest-rated memoirs on Amazon.
At best, ghostwriting is the process by which a paid writer turns the base metal of someone else’s memories or imaginings into literary gold. Some writers dedicate their lives to this arcane craft; others intersperse work on the occasional ghosted work with their own literary output.
Writing books that will sell is a difficult art, and Michael Wright is open to proposals for ghosted works, on a commercial basis. In other words, an approach that begins: “Will you please help me write my life story on spec, because I’m sure it’s going to be a bestseller and I’ll give you a share of the royalties” is unlikely to bear fruit. Whereas one that opens with “Here’s a pile of cash. Is it enough for you to consider writing the story of my grandfather’s time in the haberdashery department of an obscure Welsh department store in the 1930s?” has a sporting chance of a response, especially if it happens to coincide with an unusually painful bill from the French social security department.