Robert Ludlum (May 25, 1927 New York City - March 12, 2001 Naples, Florida) was an American author of 29 thriller novels.
There are more than 210 million of his books in print, and they have been translated into 32 languages. He passed away in 2001, allegedly leaving behind several unpublished manuscripts and rough outlines, which continue to be dusted off and published with the help of ghostwriters. This is a testament to his continued popularity.
Ludlum was once a theatrical actor and producer, and showed an intimate understanding of the energy, escapism and action that the public wanted to see in a novel. He once remarked: "I equate suspense and good theatre in a very similar way. I think it's all suspense and what-happens-next. From that point of view, yes, I guess, I am theatrical."
His stories typically feature one man or a small group of individuals up against powerful adversaries capable of using political and economic machinery in frightening ways. Ludlum's vision of the world is one where global corporations, shadowy military forces and government organizations conspire to undermine the status quo. With the exception of occasional gaps in his knowledge of firearms, his novels are meticulously researched, replete with technical, physical and biological details, including research on amnesia for The Bourne Identity.
Despite his success, Ludlum has never received the acclaim found by other writers of the genre, such as John Le Carre. Critics dislike his use of italics, short sentences, exclamation marks, dashes and other techniques, and found fault with his abundant melodrama, simplistic characters and limited psychological development.
However, it was Ludlum who first wrote the thriller in the modern style that we know today, setting the stage for writers such as David Morrell and Gayle Lynds. He popularized the notion of American and Soviet intelligence operatives working together, and the CIA conducting illegal operations on American soil. Both premises, once derided as being fictional, are now accepted as fact.
Some of Ludlum's novels have been made into films and mini-series, including The Bourne Supremacy. The Bourne series, starring Matt Damon, has been very successful commercially and critically, despite departing significantly from the source material.