In defence of the noble trade of ghost-writing

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The Independent Online

It is time for ghost-writers to unite, to stand up for the reputation of a genre so battered by the shockingly casual preparation of Austin Healey's notorious piece on the Lions tour, not to mention Posh Spice's recent vivid recall of how she was prompted to pick up her mobile for a call from Becks. "Ring, Ring." That's how it went, according to Posh's ghost.

Good ghost-writing is dependent on two factors. One is that the ghost-writer understands the necessity of reproducing a real voice and not just a string of platitudes, and the other is that the big-name contributor is intent on something more than stealing money from the ghost-writer's newspaper.

My own experiences in the trade have been invariably touched with good fortune, providing the opportunity to work with, among others, Sir Matt Busby, Malcolm Allison, Lester Piggott, Sir Garfield Sobers and Johnny Giles.

Allison, over several bottles of champagne, once insisted that a sceptical sports editor be persuaded to splash his latest brainwave over the back page. It was a passionate advocacy of the need to abandon the backpass to the goalkeeper, a device of frightened, talent-less coaches. It was an idea Fifa finally accepted 20 years later, when the 1990 World Cup nearly died of boredom.

Giles was once asked by a sports editor if he would from time to time be prepared to say something controversial. "I don't know about that," said Giles, "but I will tell the truth. In my experience, that can be pretty sensational."

On that basis, ghost-writing can be honest and valuable labour indeed. But on any other it is simply to pile higher a mountain of celebrity junk.

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