The Vintage Podcast

Richard Flanagan on ghost writing and criminal minds

'A life isn't an onion to be peeled, a palimpsest to be scraped back to some original, truer meaning. It's an invention that never ends.'

Set amongst the the cult of the reality memoir and the liminal space between truth and the author, Richard Flanagan asks 'has reality outstripped fiction'? 

The book follows young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, who is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal: $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghostwrite his memoir in six weeks.

Kehlmann accepts but begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghostwriting a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him—his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl—and who is Kif Kehlmann?

Alex Clark talks to Man Booker Prize winning Richard Flanagan about his new novel, First Person.

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First Person

Richard Flanagan

As heard on BBC Radio 4's 'Book at Bedtime': the blistering story of a ghostwriter haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect

A young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal: $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghostwrite his memoir in six weeks.

Kehlmann accepts but begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghostwriting a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him—his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl—and who is Kif Kehlmann?

By turns compelling, comic and chilling, First Person is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.

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