A couple of months ago, I discussed how Tom Clancy seems to be busier than ever now that he’s dead. Well another highly productive dead guy is Robert Ludlum, whose The Janson Command I recently read (review: it is a fun book. Not likely to be on college curricula in 500 years’ time), and which got me thinking.
Of course, Ludlum and Clancy share a target audience which I would assume is mostly male and mostly uninterested in the finer points of, for example, the works of the Brontë sisters.
I would also imagine that their audience is aging. The importance of violent men who live in the shadows and hurt people who need it seems to be lost on the younger generation. I’d say the core audience for these is probably people who remember the Cold War.
Then again, I might be wrong. There’s a series of blockbusters about Jason Bourne which I assume are not being watched only by the graying crowd…
The truth is that I joined both of these men with their careers already in progress, in about 1990 if I remember correctly. Even then, Ludlum was already considered a master of the spy genre, creating the template for the bestselling novels of that type that followed. Clancy, of course, had recently become a trillionaire with The Hunt for Red October and had written what was by far his best book: Red Storm Rising (seriously – if you read only one Clancy in your life, make sure it’s this one).
Ironically, there was already a dynamic at work between the two men: the passing of a torch. Clancy had conquered most of the older writer’s thunder, a good chunk of his audience, and younger readers who wanted to move on from the old LeCarré-meets-dynamic-writing style perfected by Ludlum.
I say ironic because, by keeping the two alive as brand names and forcing up-and-coming thriller writers to write in universes already created, the presence of the zombies on the bookshelves is keeping the next torch-pass from happening. And no, Dan Brown isn’t the same.
I wonder how long it will take for a new name to come into its own the way they did. No one has come close so far, but when they do, I think these zombies might crumble to dust.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and blogger who isn’t dead (or is he? How can you be sure?). His latest novel is a comic romp in ancient Greece entitled The Malakiad.