“Ghost writer with the inside edge” – by Jay Rayner:
Robert Harris knows a thing or two about political intrigue. As a journalist, he has reported on it. As the author of novels such as Fatherland and Imperium, he has weaved compelling narratives from it. Now, with his new book, he is the cause of it. The Ghost, which is published this week, tells the story of Adam Lang, a recently retired British Prime Minister, brought low by an unpopular and possibly illegal Middle Eastern war, who is holed up in a media mogul’s house on Martha’s Vineyard, explaining himself to the ghost writer who is penning his memoirs. In the background is his Machiavellian wife Ruth and a load of thriller subplots involving possible assassinations, the workings of the CIA and the PM conniving with the practice of extraordinary rendition.
While Lang’s political allegiance is never named, it does not take a huge leap of imagination to see this as a fictionalised attempt by Harris to stab Tony and Cherie Blair firmly in the front. Sure, as a political journalist, he was quite the cheerleader for the Labour leader. He has long been credited with having spotted the MP for Sedgefield’s talents long before others realised his potential and during the 1997 election he was granted unprecedented access. He was even on the plane as the Prime Minister-to-be headed for victory.
But they fell out spectacularly, first over Blair’s treatment of Harris’s old friend, Peter Mandelson, when he was forced to resign for the second time in 2001, and later over the Iraq war, to which he was vehemently opposed.