Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Ludlum Vault

Speculation on who wrote the recent novels published under the name Robert Ludlum has continued over the years since his death in 2001. If we are to believe his agent, the answer is Robert Ludlum, with a little help from his friends.

The New York Times and The Independent have just published articles quoting Henry Morrison, Ludlum's agent. Recent books published under Ludlum's name were manuscripts written by the thriller author himself, but were completed and polished by uncredited writers who, Morrison claims, want to remain anonymous. At least one writer--who completed the The Bancroft Strategy-- was supposedly a personal friend of Ludlum. Apparently additional shadowy unnamed and uncredited scribes had a hand in "polishing" books published under Ludlum's name as well.

I translate this to mean that the unknown writer(s) is not a big name and revealing his identity would deflate the Ludlum balloon in the eyes of his reading public resulting in diminished sales figures.

The Bancroft Strategy "sat around in a safe awaiting its turn. There are others that will be finished, as suitable." The Independent article says Morrison himself polished the book for publication.

This tells us the book was unfinished, but the question still remains, how much unfinished? And how many more manuscripts--close to completion--are there? Morrison is silent on the crucial questions, and that suggests the answers will depend not on how many there really are but how many the Ludlum Estate wants to present to the world in the coming years. My concern isn't with the books credited to other authors but accompanied with the Ludlum brand name. They can publish those for all eternity. But I think some honesty is due when publishing a new thriller solely under the Ludlum name.

I've always said the lack of transparency suggests a deception. If there really are several almost completed novels, revealing them in some concrete way would enhance their worth. We have only the agent's word for any of this and he has a vested interest.

What is left in Ludlum's vault? It may operate something like a magician's top hat when he removes it and plunges his hand into its depths and repeatedly draws out numerous unlikely items one would never have imagined could have fit inside.