The Ghost

By Robert Harris; Published In 2007
Genres: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Politics
A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and immediately it becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it's halfway to being just like every other bloody book that's sver been written. But the best must never be allowed to drive out the good. In the absence of genius there is always craftmanship. One can at least try to write something that will encourage them, after reading the first paragraph, to take a look at the second, and then the third.

A book unwritten is a delightful universe of infinite possibilities. Set down one word, however, and it immediately becomes earthbound. Set down one sentence and it’s halfway to being just like every other bloody book that’s ever been written.

A crock of shit,” Rick had called it. But actually this was worse. Shit, to quote Gore Vidal, has its own integrity. This was a crock of nothing.

at that instant i knew there was no horror the world could offer - no war, no genocide, no famine, no childhood cancer - to which Sidney Kroll would not see the funny side

Everybody tends to heighten his own reality. We start with a private fantasy about our lives and perhaps one day, for fun, we turn it into an anecdote. No harm is done. Over the years, the anecdote is repeated so regularly it becomes accepted as a fact. Quite soon, to contradict this fact would be embarrassing. In time, we probably come to believe it was true all along. And by these slow accretions of myth, like a coral reef, the historical record takes shape.

I mean, take for instance all this civil liberties crap. You know what I’d do if I were in power again? I’d say, okay then, we’ll have two queues at the airports. On the left, we’ll have queues to flights on which we’ve done no background checks on the passengers, no profiling, no biometric data, nothing that infringed anyone’s precious civil liberties, used no intelligence obtained under torture—nothing. On the right, we’ll have queues to the flights where we’ve done everything possible to make them safe for passengers. Then people can make their own minds up which plane they want to catch. Wouldn’t that be great? To sit back and watch which queue the Rycarts of this world would really choose to put their kids on, if the chips were down?

In the absence of genius there is always craftsmanship.

I read a lot of bad books- books so bad that they aren't even published,which is quite a feat, when you consider what is published."
- The Ghost, Robert Harris.

like interviewing a new cleaner. Do you want someone who can give you the history of cleaning and the theory of cleaning, or do you want someone who’ll just get down and clean your fucking house? They chose you because they think you’ll clean their fucking house.

Of all human activities, writing is the one for which it is easiest to find excuses not to begin – the desk’s too big, the desk’s too small, there’s too much noise, there’s too much quiet, it’s too hot, too cold, too early, too late. I had learned over the years to ignore them all, and simply to start.

On the Richter scale of bad ideas, this had to be a ten.

So,” said Ruth, “how bad is it?” “You haven’t read it?” “Not all of it.” “Well,” I said, politely, “it needs some work.” “How much?” The words “Hiroshima” and “nineteen forty-five” floated briefly into my mind. “It’s fixable,” I said, which I suppose it was: even Hiroshima was fixed eventually.

Suicide leaves everyone feeling guilty.

The line between accident and suicide isn't always clearly defined. You could kill yourself without really making up your mind.

This is the trouble with internet research, in my experience. The proportion of what’s useful to what’s dross dwindles very quickly, and suddenly it’s like searching for something dropped down the back of a sofa and coming up with handfuls of old coins, buttons, fluff, and sucked sweets. What’s important is to ask the right question, and

Travel is sold as freedom, but we were about as free as lab rats. This is how they’ll manage the next holocaust, I thought, as I shuffled forward in my stockinged feet: they’ll simply issue us with air tickets and we’ll do whatever we’re told.

Travel is sold as freedom, but we were about as free as lab rats. This is how they'll manage the next Holocaust, I thought, as I shuffled forward in my stockinged feet: they'll simply issue us with air tickets and we'll do whatever we're told

What fascinates people isn't policy- who cares about policy? What fascinates people is always people- the detail of another person's life.