Monday, September 3, 2007

Robert Ludlum And The Business Of Ghost Writing.

I have always wonder whether i had my facts mixed up about Robert Ludlum, the best selling author of thrillers and international intrigue, as i remembered reading that he had passed away a few years back. Yet, i kept seeing his latest books in the book stores that i frequented, like his latest - The Bourne Betrayal.

It was an article in the local newspaper recently, that got this puzzle of mine straightened out and apparently, the estate of Robert Ludlum had allowed ghost writers to preserve and continue Ludlum's literary tradition, resulting in a total of 12 books since his death.

Excerpts from The Sunday Times Aug 26 2007 :
"Writer Robert Ludlum died six years ago, but that had done nothing to slow the release of books published under the name of the actor-turned-novelist who specialised in thrillers built on a foundation of paranoia.

Twelve Ludlum books have been released since his death, with a 13th due out next month. The business is deployed now as a kind of film studio, presenting books completed by others or new ones written using his name. Since early last year there have been three : The Moscow Vector, the sixth in the Covert-One series of paperback originals; The Bancroft Strategy and Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayal by Eric Van Lustbader.

Ludlum did not want to be forgotten or leave behind only an enormous backlist that started with The Scarlati Inheritance in 1971. He had little reason to worry : He is now a brand extended far into his afterlife. His estate has borrowed from the examples of V.C. Andrews, dead since 1986, but selling well thanks to novels in her name written by an uncredited author, and Ernest Hemingway, whose estate issued several books after his suicide.

Mr. Jeffrey Weiner, the executor of Ludlum's estate, says : "People expect something from a Robert Ludlum book, and if we can publish Ludlum books for the next 50 years and satisfy readers, we will." The estate's post-mortem publishing game plan is reminiscent of licensing and other deals for dead stars such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, and the film industry's comfort with familiar franchises.

Whether it is fair to readers to publish Ludlum books posthumously - in the form of spruced-up old manuscripts or new novels written by others - is not a serious concern to the estate or to the publisher, Grand Central Publishing. "I don't think anyone objects as long as you maintain the quality of the books," says Mr. Morrison, the late writer's agent....."

I am not so sure how others see it but i believe it will be extremely difficult to replicate the works of another author given that each author has his or her own unique style of writing, choice and usage of words, methods of characterisation, rhythm, tenor and so forth. The reading experience would also be...different. As to whether it is fair to readers, i will leave that judgement to fans of Robert Ludlum. Well anyway, at least it solved one of my puzzles.

*For fans of Robert Ludlum, follow the adventures of Jason Bourne :
- The Bourne Identity
- The Bourne Supremacy
- The Bourne Ultimatum
- The Bourne Legacy ( by Eric Van Lustbader )
- The Bourne Betrayal ( by Eric Van Lustbader )

*Related post :
- A Vampiric Thrill With Anne Rice
- My Journey With Stephen King
- In Memory Of Gary Jennings
- The World's Most Published Author


bat thinker said...

Ludlum ghost writer and movie reaction
16 September 2007
In the past I’ve never weighed in on the topic of ghost writing, but recently I’ve been forced to the following position:
I don't like ghost writing. I suppose I'm a purest, but I think writers should develop their own characters and story lines without using a deceased author as a crutch.
Similarly, I was shocked and disappointed at the departure from the Bourne story line by the last two installments from the movie industry.
I don't mind them making whatever movies they like, but I wish they wouldn't bill it as a book whose story line is completely different. I think it's dishonest and misleading. Call them what you like, but don't pretend the last two Bourne movies resembled even slightly the story line of the books they purported to represent.
Yes, the movies were exciting and entertaining, but that’s not the point. I wanted and expected to see Ludlum’s work on the screen, not some other writer’s work. I felt it was a bait and switch tactic. I suppose I could’ve been more cautious and reviewed the previews of the movies more closely before attending them, but I shouldn’t have to when they claim it’s based on a particular book. I can see some changes, but the movies did not even remotely resemble the book storylines.
I wish the estate of Robert Ludlum would be more true to the legacy of his original stories. If I purchased a painting of a seascape by a particular artist and received some other seascape by another artist I’d feel cheated. That’s how I feel about the Bourne movies. Maybe the seascape would be good quality, but it wasn’t what I intended to buy.

My Den said...

Hi bat thinker,
I totally agree with your views but sadly, everything is about dollars and cents these days and nothing seems sacred anymore. The best we can do is to exercise our rights as consumers.

Thanks for taking the time to visit my blog and i hope to hear from you again.