Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Osterman Weekend, by Robert Ludlum

(pb; 1972)

From the inside flap:

"In a secret room in Washington, D.C., a man named John Tanner is asked to stake his life and those of his wife and children in a gamble whose goal and risks no one will fully reveal to him.

"In a small suburban town, where only the nicest people live, friends, neighbors, everyone and anyone may be part of a monstrous conspiracy of international evil."


Laconic, paranoid, twisty actioner from one of the masters of explosive political thrillers.

This is one of Ludlum's more personal efforts, in terms of scale, plot and characterization.

The core players in this steadily ratcheted-up drama are four couples who have been friends for twenty years, since the Sixties. Every couple embodies a varied, evolved social/political outlook from that turbulent period. Any possible conflict between these eight individuals has been (mostly) dodged, with eyes toward preserving the calm of their long-distance friendships, nothing more.

Throw into the cautious mix Laurence Fassett, a highly-regarded and sympathetic CIA agent, who tells Tanner that his friends are international conspirators -- and has proof to back up his outrageous charge -- and you've got suburban bedlam ready to happen.

Ludlum's ruinous fireworks, personal and physical, don't explode until late in the novel. Character-inherent betrayals and maneuvers (some unexpected) precede and follow the fireworks, of course, as does Ludlum's sublimated quirkiness and ever-present sense of humanity.

Oddball, moreish, intense entry in Ludlum's ouevre. Check it out.

The Osterman Weekend was released stateside as a film on October 14, 1983.

Sam Peckinpah directed the film -- it was his last, in a storied career -- from a script by Ian Masters and Alan Sharp.

Rutger Hauer played John Tanner. Meg Foster played Ali Tanner. Craig T. Nelson played Bernard Osterman. Dennis Hopper played Richard Tremayne. Helen Shaver played Virginia Tremayne. Chris Sarandon played Joseph Cardone. Cassie Yates played Betty Cardone.

John Hurt played Lawrence Fassett. Burt Lancaster played Maxwell Danforth. Kristen Peckinpah, daughter of Sam Peckinpah and Marie Selland, played Tremayne's secretary.

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