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Robert Ludlum

Robert Ludlum

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Also Known As: Died: March 12, 2001
Born: May 25, 1927 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: New York City, New York, USA Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

One of the most popular and best-selling spy novelists of all time, author Robert Ludlum actually started his career as an actor with minor television roles and Broadway appearances before segueing into novel writing. Ludlum's first novel, with The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971), was an immediate bestseller and was followed up with The Osterman Weekend (1972), which was adapted by Sam Peckinpah into a critically maligned film in 1983. Throughout the 1970s, the prolific author churned out a novel a year, each revolving around some form of conspiracy that befalls a heroic protagonist battling against powerful and decidedly evil adversaries. In 1980, he wrote his most definitive novel, The Bourne Identity, which sparked a pair of best-selling sequels, a 1988 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, and a critically acclaimed blockbuster movie series starring Matt Damon, who helped turned "The Bourne Identity" (2002), "The Bourne Supremacy" (2005) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007) into international film hits. Though he died in 2001 and was unable to see the huge success of the film series, Ludlum managed to churn out over 25 novels and sell over 220 million copies worldwide, making him one of the most...

One of the most popular and best-selling spy novelists of all time, author Robert Ludlum actually started his career as an actor with minor television roles and Broadway appearances before segueing into novel writing. Ludlum's first novel, with The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971), was an immediate bestseller and was followed up with The Osterman Weekend (1972), which was adapted by Sam Peckinpah into a critically maligned film in 1983. Throughout the 1970s, the prolific author churned out a novel a year, each revolving around some form of conspiracy that befalls a heroic protagonist battling against powerful and decidedly evil adversaries. In 1980, he wrote his most definitive novel, The Bourne Identity, which sparked a pair of best-selling sequels, a 1988 miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, and a critically acclaimed blockbuster movie series starring Matt Damon, who helped turned "The Bourne Identity" (2002), "The Bourne Supremacy" (2005) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007) into international film hits. Though he died in 2001 and was unable to see the huge success of the film series, Ludlum managed to churn out over 25 novels and sell over 220 million copies worldwide, making him one of the most successful authors of any genre in the latter half of the 20th century.

Born on May 25, 1927 in New York City, Ludlum was raised in Short Hills, N.J. The son of George and Margaret Ludlum, he received a private education at The Rectory School and Cheshire Academy before leaving home as a teenager to find his way as an actor. After touring with a company and appearing on Broadway, Ludlum joined the U.S. Marines and was stationed in the Pacific during the last days of World War II. Upon his return to the states, Ludlum attended Wesleyan University, where he met future wife Mary Ryducha and continued his ambitions toward becoming an actor. He spent the next two decades eking out a living with minor television roles and stage performances before becoming a theater producer whose claim to fame was running the allegedly first shopping mall theater, where he staged a production of "The Owl and the Pussycat" in 1960 starring a then unknown Alan Alda. But having tired of scratching out a living as a struggling actor, Ludlum turned to writing novels with The Scarlatti Inheritance (1971), a conspiracy thriller centered around a secret Nazi cabal plotting to take over the world.

Though the rights to the novel were bought by famed James Bond producer Albert R. Broccoli, a screen adaptation to Ludlum's novel never saw the light of day. But the book itself was a big success and led to him writing one every year for the rest of the decade. Ludlum followed up with his second novel, The Osterman Weekend (1972), in which a conspiracy inside the Central Intelligence Agency threatens national security. That novel was adapted over 10 years later by Sam Peckinpah into a critically dismissed thriller of the same name starring Rutger Hauer, John Hurt, Dennis Hopper and Craig T. Nelson. After that, he published The Matlock Paper (1973) and The Rhinemann Exchange (1974), the latter of which was turned into a 1977 miniseries starring Stephen Collins. From there, he published The Road to Gandolfo (1975) under the pen name Michael Shepherd before returning to his given name for The Gemini Contenders (1976), The Chancellor Manuscript (1977), The Holcroft Covenant (1978) and The Matarese Circle (1979), which was adapted decades later with David Cronenberg attached to direct and Denzel Washington set to star as the novel's protagonist, Brandon Scofield, an intelligence operative who joins forces with his most hated enemy to track down a mutual adversary.

In 1980, Ludlum published what would become his most definitive work, The Bourne Identity, a long but taut espionage thriller centered on a highly trained and lethal superspy named Jason Bourne, who has retrograde amnesia and tries to figure out why several groups, including the CIA, want to kill him. Praised as one of the best spy novels since John Le Carre's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), The Bourne Identity was the first of Ludlum's best-selling Bourne Trilogy, and later sparked one of the most financially lucrative spy film franchises in Hollywood history. But prior to becoming a series of top-grossing films, the novel was first adapted for the small screen as the two-part miniseries "The Bourne Identity" (ABC, 1988) starring Richard Chamberlin as Bourne and Jaclyn Smith as the civilian woman who helps him. Meanwhile, Ludlum published The Parsifal Mosaic (1982) and The Aquitaine Progression (1984) before writing the second novel of his trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy (1986). After The Icarus Agenda (1988), Ludlum wrapped up the trilogy with The Bourne Ultimatum (1990), the last Bourne novel he would write, but not the last ever published.

Moving on, Ludlum wrote The Road to Omaha (1992), a sequel to his 1975 novel The Road to Gandolfo, though this time he published under his real name. He followed up with The Scorpio Illusion (1993), The Apocalypse Watch (1995), another sequel The Matarese Countdown (1997) and The Prometheus Deception (2000). The next year, Ludlum published the last novel entirely written by himself, The Sigma Protocol (2001), which focused on the son of a Holocaust survivor who becomes embroiled in an international conspiracy involving financiers, industrialists and former Nazis. But before he could finally see a successful film adaptation of his work, Ludlum died on March 12, 2001 in his Naples, FL home while recovering from severe burns he received in a mysterious fire the previous month, leading some to speculate that the conspiracy-minded author in fact died as a result of a real-life conspiracy, though no evidence ever surfaced to substantiate such claims. When all was said and done, Ludlum sold over 220 million books in 40 countries and 32 languages, making him one of the most successful spy novelists of all time.

Meanwhile, "The Bourne Identity" (2002) starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne was released to great success and fanfare, and was followed with global hit sequels "The Bourne Supremacy" (2005) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007), both of which earned increased critical acclaim and massive worldwide box office. Since Jason Bourne remained a popular character with critics and readers, thriller writer Eric Van Lustbader continued the series with the blessing of Ludlum's estate with The Bourne Legacy (2004), which was adapted into a fourth installment of the film series in 2012 starring Jeremy Renner as a Jason Bourne-like super assassin named Aaron Cross. Van Lustbader churned out more Bourne novels like The Bourne Betrayal (2007), The Bourne Sanction (2008), The Bourne Deception (2009), The Bourne Objective (2010), The Bourne Dominion (2011) and The Bourne Imperative (2012), all of which presumably would be made into films.

By Shawn Dwyer

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