Tag Archives: Robert Ludlum

THE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) BY ROBERT LUDLUM: BOOK REVIEW

Chancellor ManuscriptTHE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) – With the latest revelations about blatant abuses by the FBI and other politicized agencies here’s Robert Ludlum’s novel about the dangers of such abuses by both the left and the right. There are Deep State operatives and an ugly “we know best” mentality like in today’s headlines. (Think of fascist garbage like the CIA’s John Brennan.) 

TIME PERIOD: From shortly before J Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972 up to early 1973. The novel’s “what if” premise depicts the 77 year old FBI Director’s death as a planned assassination to prevent the Nixon White House from getting ahold of Hoover’s legendary files. (That’s NOT a spoiler – all that is made clear in the novel’s opening pages.)

Those files contain so much “raw meat” on powerful U.S. figures that we readers are told that whoever takes hold of said files will be able to rule the U.S. from behind the scenes by blackmailing the rich and the powerful.

The novel’s naïvete shows in that premise. I despise Hoover but I’ve always considered his abuses to be the EPITOME of the behavior of the scum from “the intelligence community” (LMAO), not an aberration from it. The accumulation of private information about people carries with it the implicit intent to USE that information against them. Of course, these days Zuckerberg and his fellow Corporate Fascists cheerfully help “the intelligence community” (LMFAO) spy on all of us.  Continue reading

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THE MATARESE CIRCLE (1979): BOOK REVIEW

Matarese CircleTHE MATARESE CIRCLE (1979) 

TIME PERIOD: Late 1970s with investigations into events from before World War One and later.

To me this lengthy, epic espionage novel from Robert Ludlum was his finest work, partly because it nicely encapsulated how – over the course of the 20th Century – the world gradually found itself at the mercy of elaborate “intelligence communities”  (LMAO) working in conjunction with international corporate fascists.  

There’s something almost poetic about the way that – with the hindsight we have now – the bitter enmity between the novel’s central characters (one a U.S. agent and the other a Soviet agent) is washed away a mere decade before the real-world collapse of the Cold War paradigm.

And with that same hindsight it’s almost eerie how those two rivals come to realize that the real seeds of future totalitarianism lie in the New Feudalism’s ugly motto: Nations are obsolete, so wealth wedded to unchecked political power is the coming thing. Ludlum’s arch-villain Guillaume de Matarese was positively prescient.

LEAD HERO: Brandon Alan Scofield – Codename: Beowulf Agate. Forty-six year old veteran of Consular Operations, Ludlum’s fictional Intelligence Organization specializing in defections from hostile nations – mostly Communist – to the United States.

Matarese Circle 2As The Matarese Circle opens in 1979, Scofield has been with Consular Operations  for 22 years, almost since its founding. A Harvard grad fluent in multiple languages, Brandon joined the U.S. State Department right out of college. After a couple years in the “real” State Department he gravitated to State’s covert section Consular Operations (or Cons Op for short). 

In those early years Cons Op’s activities were not yet totally Top Secret. They were virtually a humanitarian organization which tried to accommodate as many people fleeing the Iron Curtain nations as possible. So many Eastern Europeans began seeking asylum in the Western World that the Soviets realized they had to take steps to cut off the flow of escapees.

Similar to the way they would later construct the Berlin Wall to prevent flight from East Berlin in particular, the Soviets clamped down on potential defections throughout Europe and elsewhere. Soviet intelligence agents – among them Vasili Taleniekov – began shutting down the almost openly- operating Cons Op defection network. Continue reading

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ROBERT LUDLUM EXPANDED UNIVERSE

masc graveyard newReader Daniel Kibblesmith requested this item about how I’d treat an expanded universe from Robert Ludlum’s espionage novels. Here at Balladeer’s Blog I’m about responding to you readers. I had sprinkled my reviews of Robert Ludlum’s Top Seven Novels with observations of what I would have liked to see in terms of offshoots or spin-off stories. So, since Expanded Universes are becoming all the rage in recent decades here’s an outline of my fan fiction-style view of an Expanded Robert Ludlum Universe.

Robert LudlumI. BEOWULF AGATE – Series of short stories or a made for cable series. The tales would be set from the 1950s to late 1970s, ending just before the events in The Matarese Circle. Ludlum’s fictional intelligence organization Consular Operations would take center stage.

Brandon Scofield, codename Beowulf Agate, one of the main characters of The Matarese Circle, would be shown pulling off his highest level defections from the Soviet Union in his best “Cold War version of the Scarlet Pimpernel” style. Every so often he would clash with his archenemy – KGB Agent Vasili Taleniekov. To up the suspense level sometimes Taleniekov would win their clashes. 

Bourne IdentityII. OPERATION: MEDUSA – Another series of short stories or a made for cable series. Ludlum’s Operation: Medusa was his fictional version of the Vietnam War’s real-life Phoenix Project. Operation: Medusa was the top-secret, paramilitary Black Operations outfit in which David Webb aka Jason Bourne got his first covert experience.

Officially disavowed by the U.S. government, Medusans spent the final few years of the Vietnam War pulling off assassinations, abducting and torturing information out of North Vietnamese movers and shakers, committing acts of sabotage AND facilitating escapes from POW camps. David Webb, his brother Gordon, D’Anjou (Codename: Echo), Alexander Conklin and “The Monk” himself, David Abbot would be the main characters but we would meet new Medusans, too. Continue reading

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ROBERT LUDLUM’S NOVEL ANTICIPATING OBAMA’S PLOT AGAINST PRESIDENT TRUMP

Chancellor ManuscriptTHE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) – With the latest blatant abuses by the FBI and elsewhere coming to light here’s Robert Ludlum’s novel about abuse of intelligence-gathering by BOTH the left and the right. There are Deep State operatives, too, like in today’s headlines.

TIME PERIOD: From shortly before J Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972 up to early 1973. The novel’s “what if” premise depicts the 77 year old FBI Director’s death as a planned assassination to prevent the Nixon White House from getting ahold of Hoover’s legendary files. (That’s NOT a spoiler – all that is made clear in the novel’s opening pages.)

Those files contain so much “raw meat” on powerful U.S. figures that we readers are told that whoever takes hold of said files will be able to rule the U.S. from behind the scenes by blackmailing the rich and the powerful.

The novel’s naïvete shows in that premise. I despise Hoover but I’ve always considered his abuses to be the EPITOME of the behavior of “the intelligence community” (LMAO), not an aberration from it. The accumulation of private information about people carries with it the implicit intent to USE that information against them.

The Obama Administration abused the FBI and other organizations far beyond even Nixon’s corrupt activities. And, of course, these days Zuckerberg and his fellow Corporate Fascists cheerfully help “the intelligence community” (LMFAO) spy on all of us. 

At any rate this is an escapist novel so the tale gets told in a simplistic “good guys vs bad guys” way, despite Ludlum’s attempts at a more nuanced approach.   

HERO: Peter Chancellor, an up and coming novelist who is part muckraker and part conspiracy hound. His successful espionage novels have not only made him rich but have caused minor public uproars over the kind of governmental abuses we take for granted these days but which were considered shocking in this novel’s time period.   Continue reading

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ROBERT LUDLUM NOVELS: EIGHTH PLACE

Balladeer’s Blog previously examined my picks for The Top Seven Robert Ludlum Novels. Here’s a look at the novel that would have been in 8th place if I had done his Top Eight. FOR THE TOP SEVEN CLICK HERE 

parsifal mosaic8. THE PARSIFAL MOSAIC (1982)

TIME PERIOD: Early 1980s

Chronologically, this novel was the last Ludlum work that I really enjoyed. I found the Bourne sequels silly and most of his other subsequent works to just be tiresome rehashings of the stories he had written from 1971 to 1982.

As it is, The Parsifal Mosaic itself reuses plenty of elements from other, better Ludlum books but has just enough new touches for it to be a worthwhile read.   

HERO: American Michael Havelock, a Czech-born Intelligence Officer. Havelock’s father was retaliated against by the Nazis in the Lidice reprisal killings, just like Stefan Varak’s character in The Chancellor Manuscript. Also like Varak, Michael Havelock was just a little boy when the Lidice slaughter occurred and he spent weeks on the run in the nearby forests scavenging food and killing Nazi soldiers when he could.

And like Varak, Havelock’s father was targeted because he did covert work for the Allies, so when little Michael was brought in from the cold he was placed with well-to-do British and American families to complete his schooling all the way up through college.

parsifal mosaic 2The now-adult Havelock saw the clear similarities between Nazi and Soviet totalitarianism and in order to oppose the Communists he gravitated to Intelligence work. Michael’s mentor and fellow Czech-American (more on him shortly) had brought him into the State Department, just like Robert Winthrop had brought Brandon Scofield into the State Department in The Matarese Circle

Also like Scofield, Havelock transferred to Ludlum’s fictional Consular Operations, the State Department’s covert arm. From The Matarese Circle we readers know that “Cons Op” as it’s called specializes in defections and in running escape routes from the Iron Curtain countries.

A very high-level defector with a secret agenda outside the typical Cold War machinations will loom large in the unfolding plot.

VILLAIN: An elusive figure or organization code-named PARSIFAL from Wagner’s opera about the Knight named Parsifal (Percival to the English). Parsifal’s conspiracy at first seems limited to fairly minor yet perplexing espionage activities but when all put together the title mosaic reveals a pattern that may trigger a three-way, all-out nuclear war pitting the United States, China and the Soviet Union against each other. Continue reading

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ROBERT LUDLUM EXPANDED UNIVERSE

Mascot 1Here at Balladeer’s Blog I’m about responding to you readers. Some of you responded very strongly to the way I sprinkled my reviews of Robert Ludlum’s Top Seven Novels with observations of what I would have liked to see in terms of offshoots or spin-off stories. So, since Expanded Universes are becoming all the rage in recent decades here’s an outline of my fan fiction-style view of an Expanded Robert Ludlum Universe.

Robert LudlumI. BEOWULF AGATE – Series of short stories or a made for cable series. The tales would be set from the 1950s to late 1970s, ending just before the events in The Matarese Circle. Ludlum’s fictional intelligence organization Consular Operations would take center stage.

Brandon Scofield, codename Beowulf Agate, one of the main characters of The Matarese Circle, would be shown pulling off his highest level defections from the Soviet Union in his best “Cold War version of the Scarlet Pimpernel” style. Every so often he would clash with his archenemy – KGB Agent Vasili Taleniekov. To up the suspense level sometimes Taleniekov would win their clashes. 

Bourne IdentityII. OPERATION: MEDUSA – Another series of short stories or a made for cable series. Ludlum’s Operation: Medusa was his fictional version of the Vietnam War’s real-life Phoenix Project. Operation: Medusa was the top-secret, paramilitary Black Operations outfit in which David Webb aka Jason Bourne got his first covert experience.

Officially disavowed by the U.S. government, Medusans spent the final few years of the Vietnam War pulling off assassinations, abducting and torturing information out of North Vietnamese movers and shakers, committing acts of sabotage AND facilitating escapes from POW camps. David Webb, his brother Gordon, D’Anjou (Codename: Echo), Alexander Conklin and “The Monk” himself, David Abbot would be the main characters but we would meet new Medusans, too. Continue reading

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THE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) BY ROBERT LUDLUM

Chancellor ManuscriptTHE CHANCELLOR MANUSCRIPT (1977) – With the latest revelations about blatant abuses by the FBI and other politicized agencies here’s Robert Ludlum’s novel about the dangers of such abuses BOTH the left and the right. There are Deep State operatives and an ugly “we know best” mentality like in today’s headlines. (Think of fascist garbage like the CIA’s John Brennan.) 

TIME PERIOD: From shortly before J Edgar Hoover’s death in 1972 up to early 1973. The novel’s “what if” premise depicts the 77 year old FBI Director’s death as a planned assassination to prevent the Nixon White House from getting ahold of Hoover’s legendary files. (That’s NOT a spoiler – all that is made clear in the novel’s opening pages.)

Those files contain so much “raw meat” on powerful U.S. figures that we readers are told that whoever takes hold of said files will be able to rule the U.S. from behind the scenes by blackmailing the rich and the powerful.

The novel’s naïvete shows in that premise. I despise Hoover but I’ve always considered his abuses to be the EPITOME of the behavior of “the intelligence community” (LMAO), not an aberration from it. The accumulation of private information about people carries with it the implicit intent to USE that information against them. Of course, these days Zuckerberg and his fellow Corporate Fascists cheerfully help “the intelligence community” (LMFAO) spy on all of us. 

At any rate this is an escapist novel so the tale gets told in a simplistic “good guys vs bad guys” way, despite Ludlum’s attempts at a more nuanced approach.   

HERO: Peter Chancellor, an up and coming novelist who is part muckraker and part conspiracy hound. His successful espionage novels have not only made him rich but have caused minor public uproars over the kind of governmental abuses we take for granted these days but which were considered shocking in this novel’s time period.  

chancellor manuscript 3Chancellor’s notoriety also means he gets a lot of conspiracy kooks feeding him “tips” about supposedly real intrigues of varying degrees of believability. Hey, there was no Internet yet, so what do you expect?

Peter’s high public profile attracts a mysterious man who tries to convince him the recently deceased FBI Director J Edgar Hoover did not die of natural causes but was instead assassinated. Chancellor doesn’t believe it but considers the idea the perfect springboard for his next novel. 

Before long Peter’s background research makes him a target of so many threats and acts of violence that he wonders if the notion of Hoover being assassinated is as far-fetched as he at first thought.

VILLAINS: Typical of Ludlum’s later novels there are multiple groups of antagonists. The main villains remain a mystery until the end of the story so I won’t spoil the identity of the people who really are behind the successful theft of Hoover’s files.

chancellor manuscript 2Instead, I’ll deal with the secondary but more active villains: a group of high-level conspirators who go by the code name …

INVER BRASS – Though they fancy themselves a benevolent group, they’ve become more like oligarchs, begging the question: how are they any better than Hoover himself? This group seems roughly based on the high-placed members of President Franklin Roosevelt’s unofficial “Kitchen Cabinet for Intelligence Affairs” (aka The Room).  

All presidents have had such unofficial advisors who operate out of the spotlight and out of the headlines but Inver Brass and some of its members are modeled very specifically on known FDR associates who belonged to The Room. As you would expect, that makes them VERY old by the time the events in The Chancellor Manuscript take place. 

The members: Continue reading

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