Ghost-writing is not always as straightforward
as it might seem. Even with a terrific agent who specialises
in such projects, the path is not necessarily smooth. If the
idea of the book hasn’t come from the publisher, you
have to sit down with your collaborator and work up their
story into an appealing proposal – and there’s
no guarantee that the book will be taken up, even if you find
their story irresistible.
With Bruce, however, things were easy
right from the start. The programme Tribe had had a success
d’estime and the book had been sold without a proposal;
all they wanted was a writer who could work with Bruce. Luckily,
from my side, this wasn’t hard. From the off, Bruce
was super-keen on the book project. With Robbie Williams,
I’d often had to hang around for interviews, which could
be abruptly terminated if Robbie wasn’t in the mood
to talk. Bruce, by contrast, couldn’t wait to get stuck
in and was ready to answer questions on anything. We sat down
in front of the TV and stop-started our way through the existing
six programmes, with Bruce filling me in on the on-screen
characters as well as some of the fascinating stuff that had
gone on behind the scenes. If I had a problem this time, it
was too much material, not too little.
The first series had already gone out
when Bruce and I started work in September 2005, so we worked
from the programmes and memory. After that, as he journeyed
off to Africa, South America, the South Pacific and so on,
I encouraged Bruce to keep a daily diary of his experiences.
This proved very useful and the subsequent nine chapters were
based very closely on that. My worked-up chapters were then
heavily annotated or redrafted by Bruce, so his involvement
was much more full-on than with ghost-written projects I’d
worked on in the past. On the terrace of his villa in Ibiza
we thrashed through exactly what should stay in the book -
by no means always agreeing.
Bruce has been lucky enough to spend
time with some of the most remote people left on our planet.
His gift for mucking in and getting on with anyone anywhere
is at the heart of the experience he describes. In my (undoubtedly
biased) view his account of tribal life as it is now is just
as interesting and authentic as more scholarly studies of