From Publishers Weekly
Erdal has written several books, including two novels, but this memoir is the first she's published using her own name. For nearly 20 years she was the personal ghostwriter for an egotistical yet charming London publisher she refers to as Tiger (because his office "felt high-voltage and slightly dangerous"). In fluid, reserved prose, Erdal, who started her career as a Russian literature specialist, recalls writing letters, reviews and newspaper columns for Tiger under his name. Erdal worked from home in Scotland, speaking to Tiger by phone and regularly visiting his office for meetings. When Tiger decided they should write a novel, he brought her to France for a "working holiday"; Erdal confesses that she had no idea how to write fiction, yet the finished product earned Tiger attention and praise. Erdal mentions her family life (a divorce, three children, a new husband) and shares memories from her 1950s Scottish childhood, but those passages—which are among the book's most lyrical and moving—are limited. Most of the references to the British literary and publishing world are likely to be lost on American readers; although Tiger is well known in the U.K., his fame hasn't yet reached across the Atlantic. However, for those willing to tolerate Tiger and his whims—and Erdal's compliance with them—this memoir reveals an otherwise hidden world.
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Acutely sensitive to the subtleties of language as a working-class girl in Scotland, Erdal became a translator, then, during the 1980s, a foreign-language editor for a trendy London publishing house run by a wealthy, bejeweled, high-strung, and kind man she calls Tiger. Extravagant in his tastes and his comportment, Tiger decides that he wants to add authorship to his accomplishments, and Erdal becomes his gifted and loyal ghostwriter. At his anxious beck and call for 15 heady years, she is responsible for everything from personal letters to best-selling interview collections to his popular newspaper column. Erdal enjoys the subterfuge, the generous compensation, and the luxurious retreats in France, but once Tiger decides that he wants to be a novelist, things grow increasingly transgressive. This is a mind-blowing story. Not only does it reveal a kooky, opulent, and audacious world, it's also an exquisitely composed confession that calls into question everything readers passionate about literary creativity hold dear. Erdal's pinpoint wit is exhilarating, and her fluent insights into the many layers of deception involved in "ghosting" are arresting and profound. The book caused a scandal in London where Tiger (Naim Attallah) is well known, but here Erdal's penetrating, hilarious tale of decadence and duplicity will intrigue and dazzle on its own deliciously problematic terms. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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