Your Favorite Authors Are Frauds: 6 Famous Ghostwriters

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It’s almost like learning the truth about Santa Claus: Once you know, it’s so obvious, but you're still a little heartbroken when you discover that your favorite author didn’t really pen most of the work with his or her name on the cover. Take comfort, though, in the knowledge that many of those ghostwriters are talented enough to be successful under their own names. Here are a few of them.

1. Peter Lerangis

If you know young adult novels, you probably know Mr. Lerangis. His 140 titles include books in The 39 Clues series, two series of his own (Watchers and Drama Club) and the critically acclaimed historical fiction Smiler’s Bones.

Millions of us of a certain age, however, are most familiar with Lerangis’ undercover work masquerading as a bunch of tweens from Stoneybrook, Connecticut. Lerangis wrote approximately 40 books in The Baby-Sitters Club series, including Mary Anne’s Makeover. He also did a little ghosting for the Sweet Valley books (Twins and High).

2. Andrew Neiderman

V.C. Andrews was just a few books into her empire when she passed away from breast cancer at the age of 63. The last book in the Dollanganger series that made her famous, Garden of Shadows, was started by Andrews but finished by Andrew Neiderman. With the blessing of her family, Neiderman took over in 1986 and is still writing under the V.C. Andrews name to this day.

Between his V.C. Andrews work and writing his own novels, Neiderman has had more than 100 books published. The most well-known is probably The Devil’s Advocate, a 1990 novel that was made into a film starring Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron. Hallucinations, mental institutions, and insanity, all wrapped up with a Gothic bow ... kind of makes sense that a V.C. Andrews-style author was involved in that story, don’t you think?

3. H.P. Lovecraft

The father of Cthulhu and the Necronomicon dabbled in ghostwriting for none other than Harry Houdini. Lovecraft had long been a contributor to the pulp magazine Weird Tales when the founder, J.C. Henneberger, contacted him about ghostwriting for the famous escape artist. The magazine was in a little financial difficulty and Henneberger felt that “true” stories from Houdini would help sales. For $100, Lovecraft churned out “Imprisoned With the Pharaohs" in less than a week and earned himself a big fan in Mr. Houdini, who offered him more ghostwriting opportunities. The piece was later retitled "Under the Pyramids," and Lovecraft was given a byline.

4. Raymond Benson

Raymond Benson is probably best known for his work with everyone’s favorite secret agent: He wrote 12 James Bond novels between 1997 and 2002, including the novelizations of Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough. It's not surprising, then, that he’s also the man behind another spy-thriller franchise, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.

Though a glance at the cover might lead you to believe that the novelization of the video game was written by Tom Clancy, a closer look will reveal that it was written by “David Michaels,” who doesn’t really exist. Benson used the Michaels pseudonym for the first and second book in the Splinter Cell series, and after that another author was hired to use the same moniker.

Benson has also written novelizations of the video game Metal Gear Solid, computer games based on Stephen King’s The Mist and Lynne Reid Banks’ The Indian in the Cupboard, and the 2011 thriller novel The Black Stiletto. He also wrote The Pocket Guide to Jethro Tull.

5 & 6. Daniel Ehrenhaft and Ryan Nerz

Like Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal didn’t have much to do with the huge hit series bearing her name. The final Sweet Valley books were penned by a gaggle of ghostwriters, including Daniel Ehrenhaft and Ryan Nerz.

So how did a couple of dudes in their 20s get into the minds of a bunch of teen girls clamoring to hear Elizabeth and Jessica’s latest exploits? “I had to smoke a lot of weed. I’m kind of kidding, kind of not,” Nerz told The Hairpin in August. He also admits to consulting his sister when he needed detail for scenes that included, say, makeup application.

Interestingly, Ann Brashares (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) was Nerz’ editor; Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) was an editor during the same time period.

Nerz now writes books that are decidedly adult, including Eat This Book (a first-hand account of the competitive eating circuit) and MARIJUANAMERICA (perhaps the reason he decided to investigate the competitive eating circuit).

Ehrenhaft has stayed in the YA genre and has quite a few titles under his belt, including the recently released Americapedia. He’s also a member of Tiger Beat, a band made entirely of Young Adult authors.

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October 3, 2012 - 8:34am
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