Back many years ago I used to go to our local library looking for something new and interesting. I would go through the stacks looking for books that had many copies, thinking that popular meant good. I’m no literary critic, but in that manner, I discovered Robert Ludlum, and gobbled up everything he wrote. If not good, at least he was enjoyable. He had a sense of authenticity about him, and his characters, while formulaic, were not the typical American-good-everyone-else-bad type. Anyone could be a villain, duplicity was all about, and power was always hidden in the shadows.
Ludlum died having written perhaps half of his final book, and other authors took over. I could tell, reading that last book, exactly where he passed on. The writing voice changed, the characters became cardboard cutouts.
Robert Ludlum is now a trademark, and the books are written by a committee named “Robert van Lustbader.” I’ve not read another since.