Robert Ludlum attended private schools in Connecticut before pursuing a career as an actor in New York City as a teenager. He joined the Marines when he was 18, returning to Connecticut two years later to attend Wesleyan University, where he graduated in 1951 with a B.A. in fine arts. His acting career continued throughout the '50s, and included both stage and television roles, as well as lucrative voiceovers for companies such as Tums. In 1969 he became a full-time writer and devoted his energies to producing international thrillers often based around government conspiracies and the innocent victims they tend to swallow up. Ludlum's fans enjoy the quick pace and growing suspense that characterize his most popular novels, such as his Bourne trilogy, "The Scarlatti Inheritance," and "The Materese Circle." Having sold more than 220 million copies worldwide of his thrillers, Ludlum passed away in 2001at the age of 73.Eric Van Lustbader's bestselling thrillers feature some of the most compelling protagonists in recent decades. They include Nicholas Linnear, a half-Asian crime fighter who made his first appearance in THE NINJA (1981); Jack McClure, a dyslexic ATF agent whose debut adventure, FIRST DAUGHTER (2008), finds him on the trail of the president-elect's kidnapped offspring; and Jason Bourne, the international assassin originally created by the late Robert Ludlum, whose estate has cooperated with Lustbader to continue that series since 2004. Lustbader was born and raised in the New York City neighborhood of Greenwich Village. There has been much confusion on the part of readers and publishing executives alike surrounding his name; Van is not a prefix to his surname, as many assume, but is, in fact, his middle name. After attending Stuyvesant, widely acknowledged as New York's most competitive and rigorous public high school, Lustbader entered Columbia University, where he studied education and sociology. Upon graduating, he taught elementary school for a time before embarking on a career as a music journalist. One day he bumped into an acquaintance who had found a job writing Western novels for a major publishing house. Lustbader, who was becoming disenchanted by the level of corporate control record executives held over their artists, saw the chance to reinvent himself yet again--this time as an author. His first book, THE SUNSET WARRIOR, a martial-arts fantasy, was published in 1977 and spawned a five-book series. He later began alternating between similarly Asian-influenced fantasy and thrillers. (Lustbader has long been fascinated by Asian culture and is a master of the Japanese healing art known as Reiki.) Robert Ludlum was an enthusiastic fan of Lustbader's work, and the two developed a deep friendship. After Ludlum's death, their mutual literary agent hit upon the idea of Lustbader continuing the adventures of Jason Bourne, who was enjoying widened popularity thanks to his portrayal by Matt Damon in a blockbuster film franchise. After the agent agreed that Lustbader would not be required to mimic Ludlum's style and that his name would be featured prominently on the books' covers, a deal was made. "By the second book he gave me the ultimate compliment," Lustbader told one interviewer. "He said to me, 'Bourne's your character now.'"