The New York Times
(March, 1999)

"The Celebrity Author Who Sat and Wrote"

Itís become common to assume that celebrity authors rarely write more than the autograph in their books.

So even a longtime publisher like Esther Margolis of Newmarket Press paused when approached with a manuscript for her independent publishing house from the actor Gene Hackman and his co-author, Dan Lenihan, who had worked together in Santa Fe, N.M., for three years on "Black Star Rising," a novel about early 1800ís pirates and shipwrecks and the requisite wood-splintering storm.

"Is this for real?" Ms. Margolis recalled asking the authorís agent, Noah Lukeman. "Iím a small publisher and I donít do much fiction. And here was fiction that appeared to be very commercially viable with a bone fide movie star as an author."

After a trip to Santa Fe in January to meet with the first-time authors, Mr. Hackman, 69, and Mr. Lenihan, 53, an underwater archeologist with the National Park Service, Ms. Margolis said she was satisfied that they had truly written the manuscript and were prepared to submit to editing and rewriting.

Mr. Hackman said that he and Mr. Lenihan divided up the writing into a "labor of love," and that he worked from the beginning and his co-author worked from the end.

They chose a rather unconventional approach to publishing, he said, because "if we were going to do it, we were going to do it in a way that we had some control."

"Iíve been involved in the last 40 years in film and theater," he continued, "and I know what itís like to do something under pressure that you consider to be artisticósomething of value as opposed to something commercial."

And that unconventional attitude applies to ghosts of the literary sort. "I just couldnít do that," Mr. Hackman said. "If you go to a ghostwriter, how do you go out and publicize it? I just couldnít. I donít need the money, for one thing. You have to be honest with yourself about what kind of achievements that you come up with."

The novel is expected to be published later this year.

-- Doreen Carvajal


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