June 4, 2007

WELL, AT LEAST THERE'S ROOM ON THE SPINE FOR TWO NAMES:

Michener's secret covenant (Alex Beam, June 4, 2007, Boston Globe)

The Michener centennial is a big deal in Hawaii, Texas, and Colorado, the settings for three of his novels, and in his native state of Pennsylvania. Just last week Random House republished "Centennial," which sold an astonishing 5.8 million copies when it came out in 1974.

Locally, a South African writer named Errol Lincoln Uys (pronounced "ace") is celebrating in a special way. He has just released a torrent of documents on his website, erroluys.com, documenting his uncredited co authorship of one of Michener's best-selling books, 1980's "The Covenant." It is worth the trip to visit the "Working With James A. Michener" part of the site. If nothing else, you will get a feel for the thousand s of pages of plot notes, drafts, and critiques that go into making a 1,300-page novel about the creation of South Africa.

In his mid-30s, Uys worked at Michener's side for two years, as an employee of Reader's Digest, which had put the two men together. Uys had shown a Digest editor his outline for an African novel; the editor suggested he collaborate with Michener, who was eager to produce one of his trademark page-turners on a hot, topical subject like South Africa. Like Michener aides before and after him, Uys produced hundreds of pages of historical and sociological research . But he also wrote dozens of pages of copy that Michener simply retyped and submitted as his own work. He provides four examples of this copying in the "Manuscript" section of the website.

"Like other writers, Michener relied on huge research teams," Uys says. "But I don't think anybody else wrote sections of his books. I had this grand delusion that he would acknowledge me as the co author of the book." But no. Michener did acknowledge co authors on two of his nonfiction books. With the novels, he almost always tipped his hat to his researchers -- as he did to Uys in "Covenant" -- but he never shared the byline.


Hard to believe anyone would want a credit for any of the later novels--they got pretty bad after Centennial.


Posted by Orrin Judd at June 4, 2007 6:48 AM
Comments

He's looking for money, not credit.

Posted by: erp at June 4, 2007 10:10 AM

Unless Michener's (and Readers Digest's too) lawyers were stupid or sloppy, the contract he no doubt signed would preclude any effective claim to royalties.

Posted by: Bob at June 4, 2007 12:43 PM
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