Who is the greatest ghostwriter of all time?

September 14, 2019

Who is the greatest ghostwriter of all time? 
An interesting question to put to a ghostwriter, especially since we, more than most, understand the basic problem with the question.

Namely, ghostwritten works are designed to keep such information private. 
I know, I know. Nowadays you see ghostwriters taking credit and promoting their work as if it was their work, rather than a commissioned assignment. As if they weren't paid good money to turn someone else's life or idea into a book or screenplay.

Which begs the question: if a ghostwriter writes alone in the forest, but then brags about it later, who collects the royalties? 
That's an inside joke. but I digress. 
Greatest ghostwriter, hmm? Well, throughout history there have been many fine ghostwriters whose secrets eventually came out. 
For example, John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for writing Profiles in Courage, which was ghostwritten by Ted Sorenson. That's not to say the book didn't reflect Kennedy's thoughts and ideas in his voice, which of course is the whole point of ghostwriting. 
Again, I digress.  
Best-selling novelist Robert Ludlum, creator of the intrepid anti-hero Jason Bourne, continues cranking out the thrillers in spite of the fact he died of a heart attack back in 2001, about a month after he apparently burst into flames while relaxing at home in his favorite recliner, just two weeks after he changed his will. 
Hmm. Sounds like the plot of one of his books. 
Ludlum's spiritual brother-in-spyness Tom Clancy has also continued his book-selling brand after his death, although he did not burst into flames beforehand. 
At least, as far as we know. 
But again, I digress. 
Other prominent ghostwriters and ghostwritten works include Mozart, who was both a ghostwriter for other composers and assisted by a ghostwriter after his death, who finished his famous requiem. 
No, it wasn't Salieri, for those of you who remember the film Amadeus. 
More ghostwriters from the music world include Jay-Z, who ghostwrote Dr Dre's verse in Still Dre and Foxy Brown's Get Me Home, while using ghostwriters Consequence and Kanye West for his own Encore
Sinclair Lewis, author of such works as It Can't Happen Here and Elmer Gantry, ghostwrote a book on tennis before becoming the first American recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature. 
Speaking of Nobel laureates, Eugenio Montale, the famed Italian poet who won literature's top prize in 1975, used a ghostwriter to pen some essays and newspaper articles, although apparently not poems. 
Famed horror author H.P. Lovecraft, creator of the horrifying and almost unpronounceable Cthulhu, ghostwrote for Harry Houdini, who then made the ghostwriter's byline disappear. 
Alexander Hamilton, that now-much-more-famous-than-before founding father and titular hero of the smash hit musical, ghostwrote letters for George Washington in addition to speeches and even battlefield orders. 
Speaking of presidents, we must not forget The Art of the Deal by Donald J. Trump, which was actually ghostwritten by a fellow named Tony Schwartz. 
Of course, some would argue that the greatest ghostwritten work of all time was penned by the Almighty. The Bible.
Ghostwritten by the Holy Ghostwriter? 
But once more, I digress. 
And of course, there's good old William Shakespeare, whose works have been attributed to everyone from Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, William Stanley, the Earl of Derby, and Sir Francis Bacon, the Earl of nothing, because apparently Sir trumps Earl. Perhaps he was the Sir of Bacon. 

I would like to be the Sir of Bacon. 

Yes, yes, again I digress.

Christopher Marlowe, the most popular choice of the Shakespeare conspiracists, is also the most likely to have actually lent Bill a helping quill. Chris died in a bar fight, although some believe he faked his death to avoid being jailed as an atheist. 
Ah, conspiracists.  
Again, I digress. 
So who was the greatest ghostwriter of all time? 
My answer would be... 
Cyrano de Bergerac. 
I never said it couldn't be a fictional ghostwriter. 
The reason is that Cyrano wrote so beautifully that he caused Roxanne fall in love with his friend Christian, the man she believed was writing her letters. But when Cyrano revealed himself, she turned her affections to him immediately. She was in love with his words. His beautiful, moving, ghostwritten words. 

Unfortunately, Cyrano was dying at the time. 

Bad luck, great ghostwriting.  
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