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Dead Writers’ Society

According to blogger Ray Cha, the new Robert Ludlum novel isn’t by Robert Ludlum:

Currently, a campaign for the new book in the Jason Bourne series is plastered on many of New York’s subways. . . . After seeing the ad many times, I finally noticed the wording, “Robert Ludlum’s” in the title, which . . . implied that he didn’t write the book. The actual author Eric Van Lustbader is listed [in smaller type at the bottom of] the ad. As it turns out Ludlum died six years ago. What is the implications of having other writers take the helm of a character after the original author dies?

Though the branding of Ludlum seems a real coup for his estate, Cha predicts that readers might start caring less about the original author regardless of whether the contracted books are better or worse than the orignal authors’.  If better, readers might say: what’s so special about Ludlum anyway?  If worse, they might start turning to fanfic.

This author-as-authorizing-brand trend might lead to new crackdowns on fanfic, if the estate has a sense that fanfic will steal away readers from its chosen elaborator of the original story (or re-vivifier of characters).  I suppose the story also shows how a particularly successful author may have the power of a publisher.  His name effectively starts working like the publisher’s trademark, assuring the standardized quality of the franchised fictional fare. 

A quick question: might the presentation of the title amount to a misattribution of authorship?  I think there’s some argument that the odd phrasing of the poster (Ludlum’s [novel name] by von Lustbader] amounts to a suggestion of co-authorship, while in fact Ludlum could not have coauthored the book.  But perhaps there is a “hand-off,” if not collaboration in the strict sense, here: Ludlum created the characters, von Lustbader has taken them in new directions.