Robert Ludlum Long Fiction Analysis
Robert Ludlum was a writer of thrillers. His best works were written in the ten years between 1974 and 1984. His earlier works, although not without their fans, lack the polish and tight plotting of Ludlum’s best titles. The Osterman Weekend, Ludlum’s second book, creates the mold of the Everyman or Lone Gun against the powerful, secretive, all-knowing government-sponsored or corporate-backed terrorist agency. Ludlum’s heroes usually work alone, but the novels occasionally include a love interest or sometimes an unlikely ally, such as a KGB agent who is forced by circumstances to join the fight. First and foremost, Ludlum was a storyteller, a writer of tales in which paranoid heroes face their greatest fears fully realized.
Ludlum’s later works suffered from comparison to his titles from the mid-1970’s to mid-1980’s. The plots became too outlandish, unrealistic in the extreme. It was ironic, considering his background as an actor and stage producer, that Ludlum was often criticized for his dialogue. Characters spoke in trite phrases, exclaimed odd words over and over, and were not always clear in meaning. Critics have pointed out Ludlum’s overuse of punctuation, especially exclamation marks. His dependence on foreign phrases and needlessly long sentences can put off readers and critics alike.
Three of Ludlum’s best titles—The Osterman Weekend, The Matarese Circle, and The Parsifal Mosaic—represent, respectively, an important early work that serves as a model for later titles, one of Ludlum’s most highly acclaimed thrillers, and a solid story that contains all the elements that made Ludlum a successful author.
The Osterman Weekend
The Osterman Weekend is a study in missed communication, in misinterpreting actions, in missing the obvious clues in order to chase a more fantastic possibility convincingly presented by a higher authority. The central messages in the novel are how surprisingly little it takes to pit close friends against each other and how blindly accepting citizens can be of their elected or appointed leaders.
The novel centers on four sets of couples, all friends. The Tanners, the Tremaynes, the Cardones, and the Ostermans all get together a few times each year for an extended weekend party. The Ostermans, who are Hollywood writers, used to live in Saddle River, New Jersey. They were next-door neighbors of the Tanners, John and Ali. Because friends introduce their new friends to their old friends, Joe and Betty Cardone, Dick and Ginny Tremayne, and Bernie and Leila Osterman have all become the best of friends through the Tanners. They are all regular attendees of the extended weekend party that they have come to call “The Osterman Weekend.”
As the novel opens, it is not long before they will all get together again. Plans have been made. John and Ali are hosting. They are all happy and successful, and all are looking forward to being with their close friends again. Of course, the Ostermans are getting to be major players in the entertainment world, and John Tanner is responsible for the production of a network news organization and the most influential news program on television. Joe Cardone is a very successful businessman, a former college athlete who changed the spelling of his last name to seem less ethnic. Dick Tremayne is an absolute genius in the courtroom, an attorney everyone admires.
The trouble begins with a call that John receives from Washington, D.C., summoning him to sign some rather routine paperwork at the offices of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While John thinks the paperwork is necessary, it hardly seems worth the trip. John is greeted in Washington by Mr. Fassett, someone John has never before worked with at the FCC or even heard of previously. Fassett reveals to John that he is not with the FCC at all; rather, he is with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In the course of their conversation, Fassett tells John that Omega, a Communist-sponsored organization bent on destroying the reputations of American government and business leaders, is operating in the United States. Furthermore, a cell of the organization has been discovered operating in Saddle River; it consists, unbelievably, of three couples—the Cardones, the Tremaynes,...
(The entire section is 1772 words.)