You may not know his name, but you’ve most likely read his words. Donald Bain, who might have been the most successful ghostwriter of all time, passed away in White Plains, New York on October 21st. He was 82.

For many years, Bain’s was the pen behind the “Jessica Fletcher” byline on the Murder She Wrote novels, but his first brush with fame happened many years before. From The Washington Post:

Mr. Bain’s first major success came in 1967, when he wrote the pseudonymous best seller “Coffee, Tea or Me?,” a risqué novel purporting to be a nonfiction account of the amorous adventures of two free-spirited flight attendants, or “stewardesses,” as they were then called.

The title derived from a salacious come-hither line delivered by one of the stewardesses, and it became a commonplace, if leering, catchphrase of the time. The novel sold millions of copies, prompting Mr. Bain to publish three more “Coffee, Tea or Me?” sequels, all written by “Trudy Baker” and “Rachel Jones.” The publisher hired two former flight attendants to portray the would-be authors on talk shows.

Bain’s was a special talent. One he recognized and marketed to maximum effect:

“My strength is like an impressionist or mimic in a nightclub — I pick up on a style,” he told the Associated Press in 1997, “and write in that voice. That’s necessary if you’re going to be successful.”

Margaret Truman, the daughter of President Harry S. Truman, published her first mystery novel set in Washington’s corridors of power, “Murder in the White House,” in 1980.

Mr. Bain did not help with that book, but he worked as Truman’s ghost writer for the next 23 books in the series.

Read the full piece here.

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