Today in 1951, Robert Ludlum, one of the bestselling authors of all time, graduated from Wesleyan College in Middletown, Connecticut with a B.A. in Drama and high hopes of becoming a world-famous actor.
Born in New York City in 1927, Ludlum developed a love for the theater while attending private school in Cheshire, Connecticut, and later acted in several theater productions while a student at Wesleyan University in Middletown. On June 10, 1951, Ludlum obtained his degree from Wesleyan and promptly pursued a career in acting. After twenty years of modest success playing bit roles in numerous TV shows and doing intermittent voice-over and theater work, Ludlum then tried his hand at a different form of storytelling: writing fast-paced thriller novels. At the age of 42 he published his first novel, The Scarlatti Inheritance, which became a bestseller and launched him into a new career as one of America’s most prolific and successful suspense authors.
Ludlum chose a fond and familiar place to set the stage for his third novel, The Matlock Paper: the campus of a small, liberal-arts university in central Connecticut that resembles Wesleyan in everything but name. (Ludlum used the fictitious name “Carlyle University” instead.)
Ludlum lived in a shoreline mansion in Southport, Connecticut for a time before retiring to Naples, Florida where he died in 2001. It is estimated that the 27 novels he authored during his lifetime — including the famous Bourne Trilogy books, which have since been transformed into multi-million-dollar Hollywood blockbusters — have sold over half a billion copies worldwide.
Douglas Martin, “Robert Ludlum, Best-Selling Suspense Novelist,” New York Times
Jack Perkins, “The Ludlum Identity: A Portrait of Robert Ludlum,” NBC News interview