Robert Ludlum

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For the 16th-century Catholic martyr, see Robert Ludlum (martyr).
Robert Ludlum
Robert Ludlum (1927-2001).jpg
Born (1927-05-25)May 25, 1927
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died March 12, 2001(2001-03-12) (aged 73)
Naples, Florida, U.S.
Pen name Jonathan Ryder, Michael Shepherd
Occupation Novelist
Alma mater Wesleyan University
Genre Thriller, spy fiction, mystery
Notable works The Bourne Trilogy
Spouse Mary Ryducha[1]
Children 3 (two sons and a daughter)

Robert Ludlum (May 25, 1927 – March 12, 2001) was an American author of 27 thriller novels. The number of copies of his books in print is estimated between 290 million and 500 million.[2][3][4] They have been published in 33 languages and 40 countries. Ludlum also published books under the pseudonyms Jonathan Ryder and Michael Shepherd.[5]

Life and career[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Ludlum was born in New York City, the son of Margaret (née Wadsworth) and George Hartford Ludlum.[6] His maternal grandparents were English.[7] He was educated at The Rectory School then Cheshire Academy and Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut were he earned a B.A. in Drama. While at Wesleyan, Ludlum joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. After becoming an author later in life, Ludlum would set his mystery novel Matlock Paper at the fictitious Carlyle University in Connecticut, a thinly-disguised Wesleyan.[8][9]


Prior to becoming an author, he had been a United States Marine,[10][11] a theatrical actor and producer. In the 1950s, he produced shows at the Grant Lee theater in Fort Lee, NJ. From 1960 to 1970, he managed and produced shows at the Playhouse on the Mall in Paramus, NJ.[12] His theatrical experience may have contributed to his understanding of the energy, escapism and action that the public wanted in a novel. He once remarked: "I equate suspense and good theater 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."[5]

Many of Ludlum's novels have been made into films and mini-series, including The Osterman Weekend, The Holcroft Covenant, The Apocalypse Watch, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Covert One: The Hades Factor, a book co-written with Gayle Lynds, was originally conceived as a mini-series; the book evolved from a short treatment Ludlum wrote for NBC. The Bourne movies, starring Matt Damon in the title role, have been commercially and critically successful (The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards in 2008), although the story lines depart significantly from the source material.

During the 1970s, Ludlum lived in Leonia, New Jersey, where he spent hours each day writing in his home.[13]


Ludlum died on March 12, 2001, at his home in Naples, Florida, while recovering from severe burns caused by a mysterious fire which occurred on February 10.[14][15][16]

Writing analysis and criticism[edit]

Ludlum's novels typically feature one heroic man, or a small group of crusading individuals, in a struggle against powerful adversaries whose intentions and motivations are evil and who are capable of using political and economic mechanisms in frightening ways. The world in his writings is one where global corporations, shadowy military forces and government organizations all conspire to preserve (if it is good) or undermine (if it is evil) the status quo.

Ludlum's novels were often inspired by conspiracy theories, both historical and contemporary. He wrote that The Matarese Circle was inspired by rumors about the Trilateral Commission, and it was published only a few years after the commission was founded. His depictions of terrorism in books such as The Holcroft Covenant and The Matarese Circle reflected the theory that terrorists, rather than being merely isolated bands of ideologically motivated extremists, are actually pawns of governments or private organizations who are using them to facilitate the establishment of authoritarian rule.



Some of Ludlum's novels have been made into films and mini-series, although the story lines might depart significantly from the source material. In general, a miniseries is more faithful to the original novel on which it is based.

1 announced/in development

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Williams, John (March 14, 2001). "Robert Ludlum". The Guardian. Retrieved February 23, 2014. 
  2. ^ Ludlum, Robert, Prometheus Deception, 2000. Preface by the publisher, Orion Publishing.
  3. ^ "The Ludlum conspiracy" at
  4. ^ Kearns, Kenneth (March 6, 2011). "The Ludlum Conspiracy". Daily Mail (London). 
  5. ^ a b Liukkonen, Petri. "Robert Ludlum". Books and Writers ( Finland: Kuusankoski Public Library. Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Gina Macdonald, "The Life of Robert Ludlum", Robert Ludlum: A Critical Companion, Greenwood Press, 1997, p. 1.
  7. ^ "Ludlum" at
  8. ^ "United Kingdom" at
  9. ^ "Robert Ludlum" at
  10. ^ Adrian, Jack (March 4, 2001). "Obituary: Robert Ludlum". The Independent. 
  11. ^ "List of notable United States Marines". Wikipedia. 
  12. ^ Garvie, Glenn. "Remembering Playhouse on the Mall". (201) Magazine. Retrieved 25 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Klemsrud, Judy (July 10, 1977). "Behind the Best Sellers: Robert Ludlum". The New York Times. Retrieved March 30, 2011.  "He writes for six or seven hours in an office in his house in Leonia."
  14. ^ "The Times obituary Robert Ludlum". The Times (London). August 15, 2007. 
  15. ^ Kearns, Kenneth (March 6, 2011). "The Ludlum Conspiracy: Was the master storyteller and creator of the blockbuster Bourne movies murdered by his gold-digging wife?". Daily Mail (London). 
  16. ^ "The Robert Ludlum controversy: nephew raises questions about top thriller writer's death". The Australian. February 21, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Marc Forster to Direct Robert Ludlum’s The Chancellor Manuscript". January 15, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2013. 

External links[edit]