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But Seriously, Will He Remember?

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So by now, you’ve undoubtedly seen the news that Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards sold Little, Brown and Company the rights to publish his memoir. The ticket price was reportedly a staggering $7.3 million. Other reports place the amount somewhere in the range of seven to eight million. Regardless, it was enough to make Richards’s literary agent Ed Victor remark, “It’s the largest sum of money I’ve ever got for anything in my entire career.”

Some observers have joked about it, but I think it’s a worthwhile question to seriously ponder. Will Keith Richards remember enough of his legendary party days to provide substantive material for the book?

I’m not trying to be sarcastic or snarky. An acquaintance of mine is a highly-successful ghostwriter who works behind the scenes and is rarely credited. But he’s worked with some of the biggest names in music. He once declined the opportunity to work with a red-hot rock celebrity on what would have been a surefire bestseller. “It would have been fiction,” he said. “Or we would have just regurgitated the stories about his partying that everyone already knows. But he wasn’t coherent enough during those years to add anything unique or specific to the discussion. Just the same old tales of excess that he only knew because he read them in the tabloids for so long.”

In Mr. Richards’s case, the potential for memory-blackouts in the book is reduced by the presence of a knowledgeable co-author. Author James Fox, a friend of more than 30 years, will work with Richards on the book. Presumably Fox can help fill in the holes. Fox has already begun interviewing people close to the guitarist.

So ultimately, the book will probably be a strong effort. But it does generate an intriguing discussion about the nature of co-authoring a book with someone who may have lost large chunks of time.