The Ghosts of Harlem

The French edition of The Ghosts of Harlem was very successful in France but Filipacchi’s production was so upscale that when it came time to find a US publisher to whom they could license it there were no takers because of the cost. The result was there was no English-language edition.

In 2005 I was visiting with Ahmet Ertegun and at one point he asked me about The Ghosts of Harlem and why there was no English-language edition. I explained that Filipacchi held the rights and that no US publisher could afford to license it. He said, “This book should be available in English.” He then asked his assistant to make a telephone call, which in this case was to his old friend, Daniel Filipacchi. He suggested that I should be given the rights back to the book so I could pursue a publisher in the United States. Filipacchi agreed and within a couple of months I had the paperwork in hand.

I got lucky with a publisher. David Berger suggested I contact the Vanderbilt University Press. This fine company had just published Playing The Changes, a book about the life and photographs of Milt Hinton that he’d created with Holly Maxson. Vanderbilt signed on immediately and I was on my way.

I rewrote some of the text, took many more pictures in Harlem to contrast the early 1990s with 2007 and included a new “ghost,” Dr. Billy Taylor. The book was published in May 2009 and is currently in print.