The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

February 13, 2009

Book review: Hamilton an emotional armadillo

‘Don’t Mind if I Do’

By George Hamilton and William Stadiem

Here’s to the unsung hero of autobiographies/memoirs of famous people — the ghostwriter. At least Hamilton had the grace to credit his co-writer, unlike many.

The term “ghost-writer” refers more narrowly to those writers whose work remains uncredited, but also those who, as in this case, do receive recognition. Having read a few autobiographies and memoirs that really, really could have done with a ghostwriter (or a better one), I appreciate Hamilton’s good sense (or his publisher’s) to employ a good one. The book reads as though written by Hamilton himself. You can imagine him narrating the stories aloud, for the most part. Now that’s successful ghostwriting.

Now, having dealt with authorship, how about the book? Well, it’s a mixed bag.

It’s very readable, but I found it oddly distancing. The first third is the most engaging, and it deals with his life until he went to Hollywood. Hamilton’s family was, to say the least, dysfunctional. His parents divorced when he was 5, and George and his mother and two brothers moved to her parents’ home in Blytheville, Ark. Five idyllic childhood years followed, only to be crushed when both of his beloved (and stable, unlike his mother) grandparents died.

After that, his mother pursued her next husbands (not to mention numerous other conquests) and the family moved about more than a little. Now, returning to the ghostwriter theme, the acknowledgment at the end of the book helped clarify why this was the most engaging section. Turns out that most of this part was really written by his brother, David, one year his junior. On the face of it, it’s a bit hard to understand why his younger brother should be the one who would have more complete memories of their childhood. Then again, given the tenor of most of the rest of the book, perhaps not. As I said, I found the book distancing. I think that, perhaps, that’s because George Hamilton has divorced himself pretty thoroughly from any depth of feeling. His brother evidently has not. Given their upbringing, it may be more remarkable that David did not cut himself off from his emotions than that George did.

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