Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Is it the characters that matter... or the author?

Since Robert Ludlum's death in 2001, 12 books with his name have been released. According to his estate, all the books were left behind as unpolished manuscripts in his safe when he died.

Then last spring we received in our offices a manuscript called Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Betrayal written by novelist Eric Van Lustbader. It seems that with the Bourne movies starring Matt Damon doing so well, Ludlum's agent decided it would be a shame to just let the franchise fall apart. He turned to Ludlum's friend Lustbader, known for the 1980s book The Ninja. So the character of desperate but crafty Jason Bourne lives on in books and in films. And while we here in the Select Edition office were a little skeptical of this change of provenance, it seems that Bourne fans couldn't care less. This second Bourne book by Lustbader came out this summer (just before the latest hit Bourne movie) and was another hard-cover best-seller. (For more things Ludlum, click on his official website. You'll note a small TM next to his name every time it appears--which is a lot.)

This kind of situation isn't rare; it's just the latest in the line of literary legacies being handed down. It's happening right now between an aging Dick Francis and his eager writer son, Felix, who will carry on his father's characters and writing voice. And "books from the estate of" have been coming from Ernest Hemingway and V.C. Andrews for years. Not to mention all the Sherlock Holmes stories that came into creation, including science fiction tales, when that legendary detective went into the public domain.

Here's a fun question: If you had the chance to wish back into existence a favorite literary character who ended when the author did, who would you wish for? (And note that Scarlett O'Hara's already been brought back to literary life--several times.)


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