"...my most ambitious idea, 'The Bourne Arpeggio,' in which Bourne, now a violist, prevents the assassination of a Russian dissenter at the reopening of Alice Tully Hall."
August 4, 2007 7:00 PM   Subscribe

With the Bourne Ultimatum released, that would appear to be it for the series. Not so for the books, even though original author Robert Ludlum has been dead for six years. This type of thing isn't exactly new, but do these ghost-written books do the originals justice, or are the authors' estates just cashing in?
posted by djgh (25 comments total)
...do these ghost-written books do the originals justice...

Ludlum's books don't need justice, they need mercy.
posted by QuietDesperation at 7:07 PM on August 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

I always loved the original Bourne books (but I like those kinds of books, and I was young).
I just started reading the newest one a couple days ago and was struck by how "Michael Bay" the book was. It was like van Lustbader was writing it while thinking mainly of the checks he would cash once Matt Damon signed on for the movie.

And to anticipate a future comment:

It was like van Lustbader was writing it while thinking mainly of the checks he would cash once Matt Damon signed on for the movie.

Ya think?
posted by mrnutty at 7:20 PM on August 4, 2007

Ludlum is the literary Tupac.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 7:21 PM on August 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

I thought the Bourne books were entertaining in my teens, which was a lot of years ago. I picked up one of the ghostwritten ones recently, and thought how bad it was. Much worse than what I remembered of the originals. So yes, I do think authors becoming a brand is a bad thing. Just think of future books in the series as they advertise them like Corn Flakes: "Now with more Ludlum dialog!!!"
posted by Eekacat at 7:36 PM on August 4, 2007

Publishers Weekly didn't care for the book version of Ultimatum:

The Ludlum trademarks are present: improbable bloodbaths, repetitive action, stilted and off-the-point conversations and--most annoying--the use of italicized words or entire paragraphs to simulate passion. This is formula writing that delivers even less than its meager promise.

Of course, the new movie has nothing at all to do with the books. It's quite good though, if a bit similar to the second one.
posted by smackfu at 7:38 PM on August 4, 2007

in the bourne insemination, our hero can stop a plot to rob a sperm bank!
posted by bruce at 7:38 PM on August 4, 2007


*dives behind the couch*
posted by ZachsMind at 7:41 PM on August 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

As a snarky chain bookstore drone I used to enjoy pointing out to the trashy teens buying "new" V.C. Andrews novels that she'd been dead since before they were born. Also, while I found it a bit creepy that all of V.C. Andrews books are about abused 14 year old girls, I find it even creepier that they are now ghost-written by a man.
posted by thecjm at 7:52 PM on August 4, 2007

Haven't Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys novels been written by ghosts for decades? This is nothing new. If they could actually find someone who could convincingly write like Ian Fleming I'd probably start reading James Bond books again, but it's no longer culturally correct to write, or for that matter think that way anymore. I mean, don't get me wrong, I adore Dame Judi Dench, but when they made her M, that was the final nail in the coffin, the final handful of earth on the grave. The first bouquet of flowers left on the tombstone of the last 007 for me. They're still telling stories, but Ian Fleming wouldn't see fit to spit on them.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:10 PM on August 4, 2007

I think it is a trend that is getting..uh...trendier. I work at a bookstore and the Bourne books aren't half as popular as James Patterson's books that are cowritten by some unknown yokel...I guess that isn't the same as ghost written but they suck even more than Patterson's early stuff, if that is possible. I see other authors doing cowriting shticks to get more books before the public.

For the record, Lustbader does do a sucky Ludlum copy. They aren't as dense and pretty flat to boot.
posted by snap_dragon at 8:46 PM on August 4, 2007

I read the trilogy a few years before the first movie came out. I was really glad that the second didn't stick (at all) to the plot of the book.

It seems that all of these collaborations and ghost-writings are poor imitations - I can't think of any ones which were well done (except perhaps the Silmarillion, and even that was a bit dense and complicated - probably due to it being reconstituted from various notes). It's just a shame that people who might be fans of the original book (whichever book) will buy the new ones, and so encourage the sequels.
posted by djgh at 9:10 PM on August 4, 2007

I believe that Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys were always churned out by anonymous hacks (see this article from a few years back about the mastermind behind the franchises). Imagining that "Franklin W. Dixon" has something to do with the yarn you're reading about Pirate Cove is like imagining that the Kentucky Colonel got up from sipping his mint julep on the porch to fry you some chicken.

My understanding is also that Christopher Tolkien writes all of those hack sequels to his father's work with a ouija board, a la James Merill.
posted by sy at 9:17 PM on August 4, 2007

Also, snap_dragon, continuations by non-original authors are at least as old as the novel—Cervantes spends the opening chapters of part 2 of Don Quixote bitching about a spurious sequel, for instance.
posted by sy at 9:21 PM on August 4, 2007

After the first Bourne movie came out I decided to read the books, such a regret. They're utter shit. Like Fight Club, sometimes the movie is better (far, far better) than the book.
posted by The Monkey at 9:32 PM on August 4, 2007

MetaFilter: cowritten by some unknown yokel.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:56 PM on August 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's worth mentioning that the new Bourne movie is one of the better action movies in along time. The reviews are almost all raves. Here's mine.
posted by muckster at 10:44 PM on August 4, 2007

or are the authors' estates just cashing in?

You know how like, with soldiers, they are brainwashed with notions of heroism and the religious fervor of nationalism, but what they are really doing is ensuring the Dow hits 1400?

It's the same thing with love. Marriage is nothing more than a business decision, love being the make-believe fulcrum allowing for the machinations of marriage to be celebrated, and believed, and for half the time upheld.

Ghost writing is for the money. It is for the money.

It is always for the money.
posted by four panels at 11:55 PM on August 4, 2007

I'm a huge Ian Fleming fan, and even though I only flipped through a few of the "Bond Series" not written by him - I can flatly say it just isn't the same. The story lines might be as good, the finesse is gone.
posted by rougy at 12:14 AM on August 5, 2007

Wow- we call content like the Bourne series and Tom Clancy novels formulaic, but the process that Edward Stratemeyer created for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels, as described in sy's link, gives the term new meaning.

Anyway, formulism gets a bad rap. It can provide a theme on which variations become more meaningful, like the humorous episodes of The X-Files (to use one of my favorite formula firehoses) . Or the more recent Harry Potter films; I'm almost glad that Chris Columbus's two installments were so pedestrian, because it helps you appreciate the individual stylistic touches that each subsequent director has added. Part of the grandeur of much Baroque music is in how interesting composers were able to make their pieces while adhering to very strict musical formulas; knowing the formulas- being able to recognize the theme in each voice of a canon, for example- can increase your appreciation of it immensely. But when structures become that successful, of course, we don't call them formulas- we call them art forms.
posted by gsteff at 12:27 AM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Coming soon to a bookstore near you: The Bourne Redundancy.

You may as well have already read it.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:55 AM on August 5, 2007

I'm a huge Ian Fleming fan, and even though I only flipped through a few of the "Bond Series" not written by him - I can flatly say it just isn't the same. The story lines might be as good, the finesse is gone.

Yeah, they just can't seem to capture the rampant racism and bigotry that Ian could do so well.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 7:11 AM on August 5, 2007

Two things from the last Guardian link:

1. I don't think you can call it an "open secret" that "most of Tom Clancy's later thrillers were not actually written by him" when the real author of the Op-Center and other series books is clearly marked on the cover (below the "Tom Clancy's Op Center!" but still). Unless the Guardian is referring to other Clancy thrillers with his name on the cover but written by another person, that seems a bit unfair; Clancy's approach is about as open as this kind of author branding gets.

2. I had no idea that Robert Tannenbaum's many books were actually ghostwritten by his cousin Michael Gruber, and that the arrangement lasted 16 years before Gruber, happy with the money but tired of seeing Tannenbaum get credit for the writing, broke out on his own, souring the relationship. Fascinating story.
posted by mediareport at 8:24 AM on August 5, 2007

I thought that the Bourne Identity book was much better than the movie. But after that the books were horrible. I didn't really like the Bourne character all that much, all pissed off and arrogant and tortured and all. It was more interesting when he didn't know who the heck he was, after that he was a total jerkface.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:23 PM on August 5, 2007

I'm nearly finished with the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey/Maturin series. I'm impressed that no one's been able to rape his corpse yet, because some publishing executives must have looked into it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2007

I believe Penny Arcade summed up my feelings regarding the issue of folks cashing in on dead authors.
posted by FormlessOne at 5:56 PM on August 6, 2007

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