June 10: Author Robert Ludlum’s Connecticut Connection


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.

Author and Wesleyan graduate Robert Ludlum.

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.

Further Reading

Douglas Martin, “Robert Ludlum, Best-Selling Suspense Novelist,” New York Times

Jack Perkins, “The Ludlum Identity: A Portrait of Robert Ludlum,” NBC News interview