Monday, July 30, 2007

The Dead Have Risen and They're Writing Spy Thrillers!

Death has never been a barrier to commercial success. The most lucrative celebrity licenses year in and year out belong to the very dead Marilyn Monroe and Albert Einstein and the presumably dead Elvis. For a while, the best way for a rapper to top the charts was to get murdered - I'm sure that Tupac has sold more CDs in the afterlife than in this one. But most of that involved the reproduction of images created during their lifetimes or the release of archival material recorded before death.

Novelist Robert Ludlum has them all beat, however, as he continues to write best-selling spy thrillers from beyond the grave:

Robert Ludlum died six years ago, but that has done nothing to slow the release of books published under the name of the actor-turned-novelist who specialized in thrillers built on a foundation of paranoia.

Twelve Ludlum books have been released since his death, with a 13th due out in September. The business is deployed now as a kind of film studio, presenting books completed by others or new ones written using his name.
That all seems very weird to me. It's one thing to take a writer's characters or settings and churn out sequels under your own name, as Frank Herbert's son has done with the new Dune books. But to slap the deceased's name on the byline just smacks of opportunistic grave robbing. Of course, in Ludlum's case it seems to be part of scheme to stroke his now-cold ego:
Mr. Ludlum did not want to be forgotten or leave behind only an enormous backlist that started with 'The Scarlatti Inheritance' in 1971. He had little reason to worry: he is now a brand extended far into his afterlife.

'This goes back to 1990 or ’91 when Bob had quadruple bypass,' said Henry Morrison, the agent for Mr. Ludlum. 'One day we were talking about what would happen when he was gone. He said, ‘I don’t want my name to disappear. I’ve spent 30 years writing books and building an audience.’ '
That's either an incredible act of foresight or really really pathetic.

No comments: