Andrew O’Hagan Ghosting
London Review of Books vol 36 #5
The National Theatre of Scotland’s adaption of my book The Missing had opened in Glasgow that week. After the curtain one night, Jamie met me in the theatre bar. he said he wanted me to get the first copy of the book. Holding it, I realised I felt nothing. I didn’t feel it was by me and the ghost’s prerogative, to live a half-life in a house that wasn’t mine, was all I had.
‘We should seek maximum publicity and maximum debunking,’ Julian said the next day, ‘and I think both things can be done at the same time.’
‘How?’ I said.
‘By making as much publicity as possible, the book will sell. This is good. And by showing that the publishers jumped early, when we were working on the first draft, we can question the book’s authority. We will choose five inaccuracies in the book and thereby invalidate its integrity. We will say you oppose the book ...’
‘Hold on,’ I said. ‘I’m not comfortable with that. I am not willing to be a pawn in this. The book was at an early stage and you didn’t make changes. This is a matter between you and them and it won’t work to tell people I simply disapprove. It is not of any account whether I approve or not. I did my work, and Canongate will say, rightly, that you did not.’
‘That doesn’t matter. Readers won’t care about that. The thing to communicate is that we were on a journey that was interrupted.’ He said he was writing a press release and would sent it to me. An email came via the London Review, from the Wall Street Journal, asking me to speak about what had happened. The Sunday Times magazine left a message to say I could have the cover to say whatever I wanted to say. During the evening, Julian, through his Twitter account, sent a bizarre message about truth being stranger than fiction, linking his followers to the book’s Amazon page. Later that night he sent a ‘statement’ - i.e. a rant - to the Associated Press. Jamie Byng was staying in the spare room of the Glasgow flat and I could hear him up in the night responding to texts and messages. In the morning, he told me he had been seeking the advice of Liz Sich at Colman Getty, the PR firm. He was white with rage about the allegations of misconduct directed at him by Julian in his statement.