This was a front page headline in yesterday’s [Nashville] The Tennessean. The author of the article is Jonathan Marx, whom I will quote below.
The book is A Guitar and a Pen, a collection of stories by Music Row songwriters. Robert Hicks is a co-editor.
“The book has raised questions about its accuracy and authorship in a town [Nashville] where people pay close attention to writing credits.”
One of the stories, “He Always Knew Who He Was,” was attributed to music business veteran Hazel Smith.
“‘I did not write that,’ said Smith…”
“Presented as a real-life first-person narrative, the piece describes Smith accompanying bluegrass legend Bill Monroe on a trip to Washington, D. C., where he performed at the White House and received an honor from then-President Clinton.”
She did not go on the trip, and it turns out that the trip happened when Reagan was president.
Hicks has admitted to writing the story himself and is apologizing for some apparent inaccuracies. “His desire was to include Smith as part of A Guitar and a Pen … rather than having Smith write a story, however, he chose instead to ghost-write the anecdote…”
Hicks says, “The biggest problem, it seems, is a huge communication gap that occurred between Hazel and me. I thought she was aware which story (I was ghostwriting). Clearly, in hindsight, I find out she wasn’t.”
Robert Hicks is the author of the best-selling novel The Widow of the South. This is a poignant rendering of the Battle of Franklin [Tennessee]; the story is fictional, but based on the true story of Carrie McGavock, whose home, Carnton Mansion, was taken over by the Confederate army and made into a hospital during the battle.
I don’t know the inner workings or the inside story or the full story of what went on with A Guitar and a Pen. I just know what the newspaper printed. Even so, this is yet another reminder of how careful we writers have to be to get the nonfiction true and accurate and to get the fiction as far away from the truth as we can, so that not even one reader can recognize the characters in our stories. And we must make every effort to tie up all the loose ends.
[Quotations are from the above-mentioned article in The Tennessean, May 13, 2008]