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Ghost Writer

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Overview

Senior Editor Jonathan Harper is in a rut. The last five books he’s edited have been duds, his star author retired and his wife seems to be drifting away. As he struggles with his dissatisfaction in life he seems drawn to a young editor. Then one day he receives the first of many brown envelopes, pages from a story that is poorly written but has an uncanny resemblance to his own childhood. His interest soon shifts, as do the pages, and suddenly Jonathan is fearful for his life. ...
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Ghost Writer

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Overview

Senior Editor Jonathan Harper is in a rut. The last five books he’s edited have been duds, his star author retired and his wife seems to be drifting away. As he struggles with his dissatisfaction in life he seems drawn to a young editor. Then one day he receives the first of many brown envelopes, pages from a story that is poorly written but has an uncanny resemblance to his own childhood. His interest soon shifts, as do the pages, and suddenly Jonathan is fearful for his life.

At the same time, his star author comes out of retirement for one last book. It’s written especially for him, but before the book can be finished, tragedy strikes.

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Editorial Reviews

Bev Huston
Written predominately from Jonathan’s POV, this outstanding novel is a must-read. It’s a mystery, a story within a story and an intriguing way to present the Gospel. First-time novelist Rene Gutteridge can only be classified as a rising star herself!
Romantic Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781598569643
  • Publisher: Hendrickson Publishers, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/28/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Ghost Writer


By Rene Gutteridge

Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC

Copyright © 2012 Rene Gutteridge
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59856-638-3


CHAPTER 1

Nellie Benson placed her hands on his desk, leaned forward, and said, "We're dead."

Jonathan Harper rubbed the back of his neck. "Nellie, please. Don't do this. Everything is under control."

"Under control? Clyde Baxter is never going to write another book for us again. I'd hardly call that 'under control.'" She stood and paced the length of his office, then stopped and turned toward him. "Talk to him. Will you at least talk to him?"

Jonathan tried to smile. "He sounded fairly sure of himself, Nellie. I mean, he's written over thirty books. Can't you understand that he might not have anything else to say?"

Nellie leaned against his door, her eyes raised to the ceiling. "We haven't had a bestseller in three years except his novels. What are we going to do? What am I supposed to tell Ezra?"

"It's not like his books will stop selling overnight. Maybe his retirement will boost sales even more."

She laughed pathetically. "You're not in my world. Be in my world. Long-range goals, Jonathan. Think five years from now. I have to think five years from now because we've already spent money that Clyde was going to make us by renewing his contract." She took a deep breath and looked at him. "And I hate to be the one to say it to my golden boy, but this isn't good for you, either."

Jonathan folded his arms against his chest. "I'm capable of finding new talent, Nellie."

Her eyebrows raised. "Really? Because if I'm not mistaken, the last five authors you signed with us lost us money."

Jonathan tried to keep a steady expression, reminding himself that Nellie had a habit of overreacting. "It happens."

"Not five times." She loosened up a bit. "I'm not trying to scare you. I'm really not, Jonathan. But the pressure's on. Do you know what I mean? More than ever. On you and on me."

Jonathan nodded and leaned back casually in his chair. "You don't call me your golden boy for nothing." He smiled and she smiled back.

"Good. Then you'll have a sure bet for the next editorial meeting?"

Jonathan winked and Nellie walked out, leaving the door open, allowing for a perfect opportunity to see Sydney Kasdan walk by, glance in, and smile.

The smiles and lingering looks hadn't always been this consistent. Five months ago, Jonathan didn't even know her name. And perhaps five months ago, he wouldn't have wanted to. But temptation has a way of presenting itself in the most beautiful form and at the most vulnerable of times.

Working as a low-ranking editor, Sydney Kasdan blended in with everyone else walking the halls. But that soon changed when, upon delivering a manuscript to his office, she accidentally knocked over the entire stack of unread manuscripts sitting next to his desk.

It took them an hour and a half to put it all back together, trying to match pages to manuscripts and then put them all in order. But an hour and a half later, he knew this girl's name, age, dreams, loves, passions, pastimes, and a host of other miscellaneous information that would seem completely irrelevant if they didn't belong to Sydney Kasdan.

On this morning she returned his smile, as always, keeping her eyes on his a moment longer than necessary, then continued walking down the hall and out of his sight. Jonathan shook his head, trembled a little inside at the thought of a twenty-eight-year-old flirting with him, trembled again at the thought that he trembled thinking about her, and then sipped his habitual nine A.M. cup of Earl Grey. Their interaction hadn't proceeded any further than the smile and occasional touch on the arm, but it moved him in a way he hadn't been moved in years. It put a spring in his step, made him feel young again. It also brought a heavy cloak of darkness around him that he chose to ignore more times than not.

To her credit, Sydney Kasdan was no ordinary twenty-eight-year-old. She had graduated summa cum laude from NYU and held two degrees: one in English and the other in journalism. Her short black hair, delicate white skin, and classic beauty had, sadly, probably launched her further than her two degrees and promising editorial skills.

As this new morning-ritual thrill came and went, Jonathan found himself reflecting on his own successes. As a senior fiction editor for Bromahn & Hutch, the fifth largest publisher on the East Coast, he was, at age forty-five, one of the youngest and most successful in the business. As a twenty-six-year-old, he'd discovered one of the world's most celebrated authors: Clyde Baxter.

And it didn't hurt that he appeared to have the perfect home-life. Married for twenty years with three beautiful daughters, Jonathan was envied by all who knew him. He lived in a large two-story, cottage-looking house with a lakeside view, drove a new sports utility vehicle—a must for any upper-middle-class soccer dad—and was becoming very well known in the business.

His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by his secretary's deep, scratchy, pack-a-day voice.

"Mr. Harper, Clyde called."

Edie Darkoy leaned against the side of the doorframe, her large hip protruded in the perfect manner to form a shelf for her hand. On this morning, she was wearing fuchsia. Fuchsia and aqua were her favorites. Somehow, Edie had never learned the fine art of moderation. If she wore fuchsia, she wore it head to toe. From the large bow that held back her long, wiry gray hair, to the three-inch heels that stuck to the bottom of her swollen feet, she was one giant neon sign. Her lipstick matched, too, even when it ended up on her chin or front teeth.

"What did he want, Edie?" Jonathan snapped impatiently. She always loved to play this game ... withhold information from him until he asked.

"He said it was important. Said he wanted to have dinner with you tonight."

"What about?"

"Didn't say. Just said it was important."

"That's odd."

"Five o'clock at the Sienna okay?"

Jonathan paused. This would be his fourth night away from home—not that it had become any big deal to him. He and Kathy had been gradually drifting apart. He couldn't put his finger on the exact moment his heart wasn't completely hers, but he did know that the woman he had shared no walls with years ago was now a woman he feared sharing the dinner table with.

"Yeah. Fine."

Edie nodded, spit her gum into the nearby wastebasket, and said, "Great. I'm going on a smoke break."

Jonathan sighed, then became angry that he was somehow going to have to justify this to Kathy. That woman wanted it all! A nice house, plenty of money, and a husband at her beck and call! Well, he didn't earn the title of senior fiction editor by putting in a mere forty hours a week.

He picked up the phone and as he hesitantly dialed his home number, his mind replayed the horrific fight they'd had the night before over this very subject. "All you care about are those stupid manuscripts you bring home night after night!" she had yelled as she stomped upstairs.

After five rings, to his relief, the machine picked up. He left a quick, rambling message, making it sound as if he were flying out of the office, didn't know when he would be home, said something about an important meeting, and ended with a quick apology and a halfway sincere "I love you." If he sounded hurried, panicked, and perhaps even agitated, maybe she would back off, accept that he wouldn't be home this evening for dinner, and not call back. He could only be so lucky.

And perhaps his luck was already changing. As soon as he hung up the phone, he glanced up to find Sydney Kasdan standing in the doorway.

"Hi, Mr. Harper. This came for you...." She raised a package in her hand. "I thought it might be important."

Jonathan smiled. "Come in."

Sydney walked in, her shoulders back in modest confidence. She held out the thick manila envelope to him, and he dropped it to his desk without even so much as a glance.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. Sorry to disturb you."

She began to leave, but Jonathan stopped her with an abrupt but courteous, "Sit down. Please."

She took a seat directly across from him and crossed her long legs at the ankles. Her sharp eyebrows rose with her posture, and she asked, "What can I do for you?"

Her bright brown eyes brought a breath of fresh air into his mundane life. The way she smiled, the way she loved life and never seemed to tire, her intelligence and wit ... it all brought energy back to him. But with the energy came the guilt.

He had to think of something quick. He reached over and grabbed a manuscript off the top of his large stack. He glanced down at it ... a proposal from Embeth Wilkes, a down-and-out romance novelist trying to make a comeback with political thrillers.

"Here. I'd like your thoughts on this," he lied, trying hard to believe that's why he didn't want her to leave.

She looked at it for a moment, then looked up at him. "Before or after I read it?"

Jonathan laughed. "You're familiar with Ms. Wilkes's work?"

"Of course. I'm familiar with all the authors we publish."

"We haven't published any of her work in eight years."

"I know," she said with a small, confident smile, "but I think you can tell where a publishing house is going by where they've been."

"I see." His heart was starting to pound in his chest. "So I'm assuming you don't think she can pull it off?"

She glanced down at it again. "I don't think so. She tends to need definite heroes and villains in her romances, and I'm not sure she can depart from that. I feel readers are beginning to love the more ambiguous characters, characters that are both evil and good, simple and complex, you know?"

Jonathan nodded, resting his hands gently in his lap as he rocked back and forth in his plush leather chair.

"But," she continued, "I believe she deserves a chance to be read. You do, too, I'm assuming, since she's on the top of that stack." Jonathan's eyes narrowed at her observancy. She smiled, acknowledging his expression. "I've heard all the stories, believe me."

"Stories?" he asked with a short laugh.

"My favorite is the one about Naomi Yates—how you believed in her work, but you always got shot down. You even took it to different publishers as a favor to her, and they turned it down, too. So finally you helped finance a self-publishing deal yourself." She paused dramatically. "And you were right. She's become one of the most famous novelists ever. Everyone I know loves her work."

Jonathan smiled. That was a long time ago. "She's very talented. You know she just turned ninety?"

"Yeah. I hope to meet her before she dies."

"I can probably arrange that for you."

Sydney nearly leaped out of her seat. "Are you kidding? Would you? I'm a huge fan!" She stopped herself in the middle of her girlish excitement and cleared her throat in slight embarrassment. "If it wouldn't be too much trouble."

"I'd be glad to, Sydney."

"Thank you," she said in a softer tone. "Um ... you're busy, so I'll get out of your hair."

Jonathan's first impulse was to stop her, but he felt himself treading into dangerous territory. These feelings were becoming stronger, the eye contact longer. So he just nodded, and she stood to leave.

"Let me know what you think," he said, pointing to the manuscript in her hand.

"I will."

His heart stopped beating quite so fast as he took in a deep breath to calm himself, then pressed two fingers up against his tightened lips. It was good to know he still had some control. His next reaction, though, was rationalization. Somehow, if only for himself, he had to justify what had just happened.

Did anything happen? Nothing visible to any other human eye. But inside he knew. He knew that he was falling....

He erased those thoughts from his mind quickly and picked up the manila envelope she had just brought in. On the outside, he immediately noticed something. Something that stopped his heart. In a large font, on a white label, in the middle of the page was

Jonathan Harper
354 Lyons Rd.
Baxter Springs, Kansas 66713

Stamped across it was Addressee Not Known. And to his further astonishment, the return address had his name at the top with the address of the publishing house. Was this some sort of weird joke? Or a strange mistake? He hadn't lived at that address since he was a young boy. And even stranger were the words Requested Material printed in the lower right-hand corner of the envelope.

One habit he had since the first day he became an editor was to always open any envelope marked Requested Material as soon as it arrived. He did this for several reasons. One, it helped him nab authors he wanted before anyone else did. While their manuscripts sat in a pile somewhere on another editor's desk, he was already on the phone with the author. Second, it kept projects fresh in his mind. He knew anything marked Requested Material was something he at least had interest in.

He set the manila envelope aside, pulled out the pages, and looked at the front page. In the very middle of the stark white paper was the title The Story of My Life. He couldn't recall anything relating to this title, but that didn't mean anything. He had a lot of projects going, and he felt sure this one would end up on the stack. He flipped to the next page, and at the very top, in the center, it said Chapter One. He flipped back a page, looked at the title, then thumbed through the next few pages quickly.

He laughed out loud and shook his head. What kind of idiot would send what looked like about three chapters to his childhood home without an author's name? He flipped to the page following the title page one more time to see if he'd missed it but didn't find anything other than the beginning of the story. He was just about to toss it into the trash can when something caught his eye ... the very first sentence.

The plow blades caught the sleeve of his shirt, though their mother had warned them time and time again to stay away from them.

He felt his stomach tighten in pain and his throat swell in rare emotion. He hadn't thought about the ... well, it just had been such a long time ago. He took a deep breath to calm himself, slightly amused at the way all those childhood emotions suddenly came back in such haunting force. The editor in him wanted to toss it in the wastebasket, but something intrigued him. He read on.

The two boys were defiant at six and seven, so one could only imagine how they might turn out together. And imagination would be the only option for the younger one.

Sweat popped onto his brow. He rubbed his forehead with his hands as he stared down at the paper. A strange coincidence ...

At first, the youngest didn't know what had happened. He heard grinding and a scream, but screaming was oftentimes just a hyped-up version of laughing. Turning around, however, he immediately realized what had happened. His feet felt like lead; his fear paralyzed him. He could only watch helplessly as the huge plow blades cut into his brother's limp body. He opened his mouth to scream at his father to stop the tractor, but nothing came out. He could only cry and watch—

Jonathan slammed the page down and covered it up with the title page. He swallowed hard and concentrated on trying to breathe. This story was so remarkably similar to his own that he almost felt dizzy trying to comprehend it all. They were five and six, though, and it was his uncle who drove the tractor. His older brother, Jason, had dared him to jump from one side of the tractor, over the blades, to the other. They'd done it a hundred times—and been paddled several times for it—while the tractor was stationary. But now came the real challenge ... could it be done while the tractor was moving?

Jonathan slowly moved the top page off the manuscript.

It had started with an innocent dare.

The view from the rear window of the tractor had been obscured by mud that had accumulated over the years, making it easy to climb aboard the plow with no one knowing. The two boys watched from the tree line, waiting for the tractor to make another round.

"You gonna do it, Jon?"

"No way!" Jon laughed, and they pushed each other as boys always do.

"Come on. You get to pick anything from my room you want if you do it."

"I ain't doin' it, Jason."

"Scaredy-cat."

"You do it, then."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Ghost Writer by Rene Gutteridge. Copyright © 2012 Rene Gutteridge. Excerpted by permission of Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2004

    A Wild Ride!

    You won't believe this well-organized story, with three novels incredibly and cleverly woven into one. Prepare to stay up well into the night. Your curiosity will get the best of you, I promise! Rene is a genius.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2001

    Top-Notch Story with a Great Theme

    This is one novel you don't want to miss. A unique story with very real characters, it will carry you along - and into the night! Too many novels are shallow and unsatisfying, but this one will deepen your thinking even as you enjoy the story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2000

    Twists and Turns Galore - A Must Read

    Fabulous - Ghostwriter has an engaging story plot that will keep you up late every night! Excellent character development and intricate detail make this novel a real page turner. You won't be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2000

    It's been a experience I will not soon forget.

    Very inpressive work. It's been a very long time since I let a book take me away. It is refreshing to know that there are writers out there who are talented enough to write a great book without having to compromise values..Thanks Rene..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    Surprising!

    This book is not what I expected at all- and I love Gutteridge all the more for it! Great read!

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  • Posted November 14, 2012

    Really good book! cover looks boring but don't let that stop you

    Really good book!
    cover looks boring but don't let that stop you from reading this very book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2000

    Bookmark this author!

    Ghost Writer is a remarkable book--three stories woven together into a tightly-written thriller that kept me reading WAY past my bedtime. Jonathan Harper is a forty-something hotshot editor who's losing his touch. His last five books have crashed. His best author is retiring. His wife is mad as heck at him, and he can't figure out why. Then things get worse. His retired author wants to make a comeback in a new genre--a weird psychological thriller about a psychopathic killer. The sweet young editorial assistant down the hall is starting to look a whole lot more appealing than wifey at home. And somebody is sending Jonathan an anonymous manuscript with long-buried details of his life. Who's behind this sinister manuscript? Why are they sending it? How could anyone know these secrets? And what's going to happen when the storyline reaches the present? Jonathan buys a gun, but that's no defense when the other guy is playing with your mind . . . The characters are well-developed and the storyline moves crisply from start to finish. Excellent job, Rene Gutteridge!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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