As the author of "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," Robert Ludlum became one of the most renowned 20th-century novelists of international intrigue. However, his masterful storytelling of betrayal and conspiracy may be overshadowed by the mysteries surrounding the latter years of his life, in which there may have been an attempt on his life before he ultimately succumbed to a heart attack.
His death came a few months after he revised his last will, for the second time, and just months after he miraculously survived a suspicious fire while sitting in a chair at his home in Naples, Fla., where he lived with his second wife. He had married her a little over a year after the death of Mary, his wife of 45 years, who he lived with in the Southport section of Fairfield until her death in 1996.
Ludlum's personal story, at times as puzzling as that of the characters in his novels, is at the center of a compelling new biography, "The Ludlum Identity," co-authored by Kenneth Michael Kearns, Mary Ludlum's nephew and the author's biographer, and Jeffrey Campbell, founder of Tau Publishing of Phoenix. The book debuted in the United States at a book-signing party recently hosted by Isadore and Janet Ryducha at the Norwalk home of their daughter, Carleen Ryducha Pampena, and her husband, Vincent.
Isadore (Izzy) Ryducha, a cousin of Mary Ludlum, heads his own building company, I.C. Ryducha, and is more than just a relative -- he used his talents in construction to renovate and maintain the Ludlum property, which became the setting for the author's bon vivant lifestyle where he was seldom seen without a cigarette in one hand and a scotch on the rocks in another.
Today, 10 years after his death, the "Ludlum brand," as the authors describe Ludlum's estate, is executed by Jeffrey Weiner, Ludlum's former accountant, who is CEO of Ludlum Entertainment. The authors write that since Ludlum's death, "continued original book sales around the globe, as well as movies, games and new book releases have generated well over $1 billion in gross revenues, with what must certainly be very significant income flowing into the Ludlum estate."
In the book, the authors have published Ludlum's last will, which was changed soon after he married his second wife, Karen Dunn, who committed suicide in 2008.
The authors show how, with the change in the will, Ludlum's three children, one of whom is now deceased, were negatively affected financially by the changes, along with Isadore Ryducha, who Ludlum had frequently mentioned would be taken care of in his will, according to Kearns.
"So many people who were truly Robert's confidants were not mentioned in the [last] will, contrary to his wishes," Kearns said in a telephone interview from his Montana home last week.
The forensics and finances surrounding Ludlum's life and death have led to the hiring of private investigating firms; C.JM Associates of Farmington and Sutton Associates of Syosset, N.Y.
Both are former FBI agents who are looking into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the changing of Ludlum's will, the fire in which Ludlum was set ablaze while sitting in his chair and his ultimate death and cremation.
They also are investigating the death of Ludlum's son, Jonathan, who died in 2008.
Murphy, who was among the guests at the local book-signing, said his firm is exploring what kind of criminal action may have occurred in Ludlum's death and the subsequent death of his son, as well as Ludlum's second wife.
He said he is investigating "the whole sequence of events," including when the will was changed. Also, he will be investigating the financial side.
"You always have to follow the money. There's a great deal of mystery out there. Hopefully, we can solve it," he said.
While Ludlum was still alive, the author appointed Kearns his personal biographer and gave him "proprietary information," he said, and he "started crossing the country filling in details of his life."
After his uncle's death, Kearns realized he had information that he felt he had "a legal and moral obligation to take to authorities."
However, his own personal investigation, which included the possible attempt on Ludlum's life by drowning and the suspicious fire, led to roadblocks in which police and fire reports were sketchy or non-existent.
The Ryduchas are glad an investigation is taking place. Izzy said that Weiner met Ludlum only about a dozen times, and yet "(Weiner) has all the power. ... It's good what they are doing."
Reflecting upon Ludlum's life, author Kearns said, "It's a cliché, but Robert was truly larger than life. He was an entertainer."
For more information, visit www.ludlumidentity.com.