I know it’s not the same as toiling in the mines, but writing is hard work. That’s why it’s so impressive to me when someone is prolific. Thriller novelist Robert Ludlum, author of “The Bourne Identity,” among others, is an example. He has written countless books depicting intricate conspiracies, some were turned into movies, he has sold almost 300 million copies, and has had his books translated into 32 languages. But the really amazing thing is that he has published more than a dozen books in the last eight years. Why is that so impressive? He died in 2001.
Ludlum hasn’t proved that there is life after death, but he’s certainly shown that there can be writing after death. It’s not unique for previously unpublished works of a writer to be published posthumously. But the late Ludlum continues to crank these things out year after year. Go to the library or to the Barnes & Noble on the Third Street Promenade and you’ll see people picking up Ludlum books. He has fans everywhere who anxiously await the next book written by a dead guy.
Ludlum’s executor and his agent say that some of the works have been books that Ludlum wrote, but just weren’t published before he passed away. Others have been written by other writers including an old friend of Ludlum’s whose name sounds a bit like a Ludlum villain — Eric Van Lustbader. However, it’s the Ludlum name that sells books. Van Lustbader wrote “The Bourne Betrayal,” but on the book’s cover, Ludlum’s name is twice as tall as Van Lustbader’s.
It was probably 30 years ago that I started reading Ludlum’s page-turning books of intrigue where there was a new conspiracy in every other chapter. More recently, I often buy a Ludlum paperback at the airport before I fly somewhere. That’s what I did on a recent trip. I feel it’s fitting for me to read a mystery on an airplane since there is so much mystery involved in air travel these days: Will the plane arrive on time? Will my suitcase be there? Or has happened to me the last time I flew -— will I be stopped by security for possession of yogurt with intent to eat?
The book I chose on my recent trip, “The Sigma Protocol,” is thought to have been the last novel written entirely by Ludlum. I didn’t know that when I bought it. I was a little suspicious, because on the cover it didn’t say, “written by Robert Ludlum,” it just said, “Robert Ludlum