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Why We Write - Tim Rich

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Tim Rich is the ghost writer for Ron Atkinson's The Manager and Andrei Kanchelskis' Russian Winters. Here, Tim talked to us about that experience. 

The writing I do is pre-figured by the word ‘ghost’. The first two books I have written for deCoubertin have seen me in front of a keyboard for hours upon end and yet my name does not appear on the jacket of either  The Manager or Russian Winters.

Those books were the life stories of two football men, Ron Atkinson and Andrei Kanchelskis. I was their ghost. As they talked into a tape recorder about respectively managing or playing for Manchester United, I would be the invisible presence in the background, imagining the scenes and the conversations that made up their lives. Then, I would set it to paper.

The trick with ghost-writing is to write the book as if your subject were at the keyboard. If you read Steven Gerrard’s first volume of autobiography, published in 2006, you can hear Gerrard’s voice in the pages. That is a tribute to the skill of his ghost, Henry Winter.

I had no trouble getting Ron Atkinson’s voice. He is one of life’s raconteurs and well into his seventies he travels the country for sportsmen’s dinners and one-man shows, telling the story of his life in a succession of anecdotes.

That those anecdotes are true is a bonus. Some of the best football stories tend to be embellished but Ron’s were not and his memory was pin sharp. That is not always the case with sportsmen. Lou Macari’s ghost-writer discovered Lou’s memory was sometimes hazy and that one performance melded into the other until he was prompted. Lou, incidentally, is teetotal.

Finding Andrei Kanchelskis’s voice was more difficult because we did the work through interpreters. I did have one advantage. I had at Bristol University studied Soviet politics, a qualification that became as useless as ancient Etruscan when the Soviet Union collapsed a few years after my graduation. Now, thirty years on, it came into its own 

when discussing Andrei’s early life.

As a ghost-writer, you don’t have your name on the cover but you do properly get to know your subject. An ‘in-depth’  interview for a newspaper might last a couple of hours. For The Manager I had 22 separate sessions with Ron each lasting on average three hours. You are let deep inside someone’s life and for any journalist or writer that is a rare privilege.

The Manager is out in paperback 1st August and can be pre-ordered here. Russian Winters is released 10th August and can be pre-ordered here

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