Monday, April 5, 2010
*The Ghost, by Robert Harris
I recently saw a trailer for a movie that I thought looked really interesting, filled with political intrigue and action. The name of that film was The Ghostwriter, and it was made by Roman Polanski. -- As a sidebar, Polanski is an awesome director, and I loved his "A Pure Formality." -- Imagine my surprise when "The Ghostwriter" turned out to be based on The Ghost, by Robert Harris, which I've had sitting on my shelf ever since it came out. I figured perhaps this would be a great time to read it, since I want to see the film.
To leak much about this novel would be to spoil it, so I won't go into any detail here. The main character of this novel (whose name we never learn) is by profession a ghostwriter. His biggest project was the memoirs of a has-been '70s rock star, and it is this work that gets him a very lucrative contract to ghostwrite the highly-anticipated memoirs of Britain's most current ex-Prime Minister, Adam Lang. Lang and entourage have stationed themselves at the home of a wealthy friend in Martha's Vineyard. The ghostwriter accepts, and it's off to mingle with the ex PM and get down to work sorting out and cleaning up a very poorly-written, mediocre memoir written by the ghostwriter's predecessor, who mysteriously ended up dead. The new writer's job is to turn it into the multi-million dollar blockbuster the publishers are waiting for. But just when the narrator/ghostwriter gets to Martha's Vineyard, all hell breaks loose as his subject finds himself on the verge of being the focus of an investigation by the War Crimes Court. I will say no more.
Harris takes his time setting up the story, so it begins slowly, but picks up speed as it goes on and gets more into political suspense-thriller mode. And if you are even the least bit familiar with post 9/11 politics, you'll notice that quite a few of the characters bear a remarkable resemblance to some of the real-life players, adding a layer of interest that keeps you reading. Sadly, my devious mind figured out a part of the end early on so that was a bit disappointing and there were a couple of plot holes that bothered me, but all in all it was a pretty decent read, and I liked it. This one I finished in one sitting -- that should say something about the suspense quotient. Now it's off to the movies.
note: If you decide to stick this one on your tbr pile, you might be interested in this "story behind the story" so to speak here, in a 2007 interview with Robert Harris just after this book was first published.
--listed at paperback swap, but if you want this book before it gets taken, first emailer takes it!
NEXT UP: The African Queen, by C.S. Forester