Lustbader, Eric Van 1946–
Lustbader, Eric Van 1946–
(Eric Van Lustbader)
PERSONAL: Born December 24, 1946, in New York, NY; son of Melvin Harry (a state social security bureau director) and Ruth Lustbader; married Victoria Schochet (a freelance editor), May, 1982. Education: Columbia University, B.A., 1968. Hobbies and other interests: Japanese and Mayan history, history of prewar Shanghai, music, landscaping, Japanese pruning, ballet.
CAREER: Writer, 1978–. CIS-TRANS Productions (music producers), New York, NY, owner, 1963–67; elementary school teacher in New York, NY, 1968–70; Cashbox (music trade journal), New York, NY, associate editor, 1970–72; Elektra Records, New York, NY, director of international artists and repertory and assistant to the president, 1972–73; Dick James Music, New York, NY, director of publicity and creative services, 1974–75; Sweet Dream Productions, New York, NY, owner, 1975–76; NBC-TV, New York, NY, writer and field producer of news film on Elton John, 1976; CBS Records, New York, NY, designer of publicity and album covers and manager of media services, 1976–78. Member of board of trustees and executive committee, City and Country School, Greenwich Village.
MEMBER: Nature Conservancy, Save the Manatee Club, Historical Preservation Society, Cousteau Society, World Wildlife Fund, Smithsonian Institution, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, South Street Seaport Museum.
Sirens, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1981.
Black Heart, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1982.
Jian, Random House (New York, NY), 1985.
Shan (sequel to Jian), Fawcett (New York, NY), 1987.
Zero, Random House (New York, NY), 1988.
French Kiss, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1988.
Angel Eyes, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1991.
Black Blade, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1993.
Batman: The Last Angel, DC/Warner (New York, NY), 1994.
The Ring of Five Dragons, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.
Art Kills, Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 2002.
Veil of a Thousand Tears, Tor (New York, NY), 2002.
Robert Ludlum's Bourne Legacy, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.
Mistress of the Pearl, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.
The Testament, Forge Books (New York, NY), 2006.
"SUNSET WARRIOR" CYCLE
The Sunset Warrior, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1977.
Shallows of Night, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
Dai-San, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1978.
Beneath an Opal Moon, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980.
"NICHOLAS LINNEAR" SERIES
The Ninja, M. Evans (New York, NY), 1980.
The Miko, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1984.
White Ninja, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1989.
The Kaisho, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1993.
The Floating City, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1994.
Second Skin, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Dark Homecoming, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Also author of introduction, Batman & Dracula: Red Rain, by Doug Moench, illustrated by Kelley Jones, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1997. Contributor to popular music magazines, including Crawdaddy, Good Times, and Rock.
SIDELIGHTS: The novels of Eric Van Lustbader are steeped in the culture and traditions of Japan. Though he first translated his fascination with the Far East into a series of science-fiction/fantasy books known as the "Sunset Warrior" cycle, he attained international success with his 1980 novel The Ninja, the first of what would become a long string of bestsellers interweaving sex, intrigue, murder, and, of course, the traditions of the Far East. Lustbader's subject matter has divided reviewers into two very distinct groups: those who view his novels as too violent and often clichéd, and those who praise their well-researched and intricately wrought plots, along with their heart-pounding suspense.
As a young man, Lustbader decided to pursue a career in the music industry. While still a student at Columbia University, he produced several local New York City acts. Not long after attaining his degree, he took a position as an associate editor for the music magazine Cashbox, and from there he climbed the ladder to publicist and media-service manager for Elektra and CBS Records. Though his job enabled him to hobnob with such artists as Pink Floyd and Elton John, Lustbader became increasingly disillusioned with the music industry as it became more and more mired in big business and huge conglomerates. He had, over the previous few years, completed a trilogy of fantasy books, writing mostly on weekends, and in the late 1970s he sold the trilogy to Doubleday, thus beginning his career as a full-time writer.
The trilogy, comprised of The Sunset Warrior, Shallows of Night, and Dai-San, served two important functions for the author. First, it gave him the freedom to leave the music industry. Second, it allowed him to explore a subject that had fascinated him since he was a teenager: the samurai of ancient Japan. This fascination had been sparked by the artwork of nineteenth-century artist Ando Hiroshige. Hiroshige's work reflects the Japanese values of honor, friendship, and the samurai code. Using this vision of sensibility and honor as a framework, Lustbader's "Sunset Warrior" trilogy chronicles the adventures of the Bladesman Ronin in a future world rich in Eastern tradition. To this backdrop, the author adds the fast-paced action associated with martial arts, giving a new look to the fantasy-adventure story. The trilogy did very well, and Lustbader was commissioned by Double-day to write a fourth book, Beneath an Opal Moon. From there he went on to write several other books that feature sword-bearing aggressors, including Black Blade, published in 1993. The novel, which John Mort called "Bruce Lee, with a twist or two" in his Booklist review, finds a secret Japanese society poised to control the world through a series of secret murders, political machinations, and other mayhem that has been carried out for decades. In addition to the martial arts, fantasy elements, artificial intelligence, industrial tycoons, spies, and a sexy heroine with psychic abilities also serve to fuel what a Kirkus Reviews critic dubbed "midair double-somersault reverse plotting."
Despite the success of the "Sunset Warrior" cycle, Lustbader temporarily abandoned the fantasy genre in favor of a suspense-thriller titled The Ninja. The book was rejected by a number of publishers before being picked up by M. Evans. Recognizing the immense potential of The Ninja, the editors at M. Evans set into motion an ambitious—and expensive—publicity campaign. They stirred interest in the book by quickly selling the paperback and film rights; this impressed such booksellers as Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble, whose advance-copy orders funded even more publicity. By the time The Ninja's "official" release date arrived it had already spent three weeks on the bestseller list, marking M. Evans's first bestseller ever and making Lustbader a millionaire almost overnight.
The Ninja introduces Nicholas Linnear, a half-English, half-Asian businessman who, as a young man in Japan, was trained in the semi-mystical ways of ninjutsu. Linnear, now a player in New York City's world of high finance, becomes enmeshed in a series of martial arts-style murders. Recognizing the killing style as that of a ninja, Linnear surreptitiously investigates the murders, discovering ultimately that the killer is a boyhood rival with whom he had trained. By that time, though, Linnear has been marked as the assassin's next target. "Somewhere inside this sprawling novel … there is an exciting thriller trying to break out," stated a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who called the plot "implausible." Los Angeles Times Book Review writer Don G. Campbell also found the story too fast-paced at times, occasionally leaving the reader behind; however, he ultimately pronounced Lustbader "a fluid storyteller," claiming that "few can match him in creating a mood that something terrible is just about to happen." The immense popularity of The Ninja eventually sparked several more novels featuring Nicholas Linnear, including The Miko, and White Ninja.
Beginning in the fall of 1993, Lustbader began a second three-book sequence featuring the further adventures of protagonist Linnear; the series includes The Kaisho, The Floating City, and 1995's Second Skin. "Although all three novels are entirely separate, their overall theme is the exploration of Nicholas's father's role in the creation of the new post-war Japan and Linnear's role in tomorrow's Japan," Lustbader once explained to CA. In The Kaisho, Linnear fulfills a family duty to the Japanese mafia—the Kaisho—whose members are being painstakingly eliminated by a Vietnamese assassin called Du Doc. While his debt to the Kaisho—who helped Linnear's diplomat father lead Japan toward democracy after World War II—comes at a bad time for businessman Linnear, the hero rises to the task, puts his business expansion on hold, and hones up on the latest occult-laced martial arts skills to battle the fearless Du Doc.
The Floating City finds Linnear battling Saigon's underground drug trade while still working to repay his father's debt to the Japanese mob. A Publishers Weekly contributor claimed the novel would appeal to "fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." Mafia wars and nuclear wars serve as a backdrop to protagonist Linnear's characteristic penchant for violent interludes and exotic love interests. The action climaxes in Second Skin, as mob wars merge with the battles of big business and Linnear finds his own company—which has developed a cellular phone that transmits clear pictures and threatens to monopolize Japan's technology industry through its creation of the Transrim CyberNet internet highway—the focus of industrial espionage by his arch rival, mobster Mick Leonforte. "At its root," noted Chris Petrakos in Chicago Tribune Books, "Second Skin is a story of meeting one's own dark side, and while the pace is sometimes too frenetic and the plot is overwhelmed by wildly excessive characters, Lustbader can leave the reader exhilarated as well as exhausted."
In Dark Homecoming, Lustbader turns his attention westward, setting this thriller in a crime-ridden, bloodsoaked Miami. Cop Lewis Cloaker reappears as the hero of this novel, though this time he has retired from the police force and become the captain of a charter boat. Cloaker gets snared in a sinister network of villains involved in black-market organ "donations," as he struggles against the clock to find a kidney for his dying, drug addicted fifteen-year-old niece. A Kirkus Reviews critic wrote that "Lustbader's intense flow of invention is wonderful to watch: Wild, gory, over-the-top entertainment throughout."
The Ring of Five Dragons inaugurates Lustbader's "Pearl" saga, a return to the fantasy realm for the author. Giyan and Bartta are twin sisters, priestesses of the goddess Miina, who seek to find Dar Sala-at, a man prophesied to save their people, the Kundalans, who have been enslaved by the V'ornn race for over a century. As the Kundalans lose faith in Miina, the sisters study ancient teachings, hoping to unravel the mystery behind the ring of Five Dragons, which will enable its bearer to unlock the secrets of Kundala. The Gyrgon, the ruling class of the V'ornn, know of the ring and are seeking it so they can further subjugate the Kundalans. The sisters head a large cast of characters in this "richly detailed tapestry," as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly described it. The book's complexity is highlighted by appendices listing the story's major characters and a pronunciation guide to the V'ornn language. While a writer for Kirkus Reviews took issue with the book's complicated dialogue, the same reviewer concluded that "this midnight dish will leave many disembodied with rapture." Paula Luedtke, writing in Booklist, called the novel "enthralling and exciting reading, full of unexpected twists and surprises," and the Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that "newcomers to Lustbader and his ardent admirers will champion this novel as a potent portal to fabulous mythic realms."
Lustbader, who was a close friend of the late novelist Robert Ludlum, was hired by Ludlum's estate to write the fourth novel in the popular Bourne series, The Bourne Legacy. The espionage thriller finds Jason Bourne living as David Webb in Washington, DC, retired from the CIA, teaching at Georgetown University, and trying to put his wild days of amnesia and chasing European assassins behind him. But when Webb is framed for the murder of his two best friends, he resurrects his Bourne identity and begrudgingly sets off for Chechnya, Nairobi, Budapest and other far-flung places, trying to stay one step ahead of those who want to kill him and the terrorists who want to destabilize the world. One writer for Publishers Weekly called the novel "a roller coaster ride of intrigue and betrayal," and a different reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented: "It's a hearty serving of meat and potatoes action adventure, just the sort of fare that both Ludlum's and Lustbader's fans relish."
Lustbader wrote a book with some similarities to Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code with his novel The Testament. The story concerns mysterious organizations, a religious conspiracy, and a secret that, if revealed, could destroy Christianity in its current form. It pits the Order of Gnostic Observatines against the Knights of St. Clement. Bravo Shaw, the book's protagonist, is drawn into the conspiracy when his father, Dexter, is killed. Bravo had not known of his father's secret life as an Observatine, but nevertheless, he is entrusted with his deceased father's mission. The Testament is a "highly sophisticated" tale that will "leave the audience breathless," according to Harriet Klausner in Harriet Klausner's Review Archive. A Publishers Weekly writer called it a "high-octane" and "action-packed" tale.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July 15, 1980, review of The Ninja, p. 1658; December 15, 1992, John Mort, review of Black Blade, p. 699; April 15, 2001, Paula Luedtke, review of The Ring of Five Dragons, p. 1510; July, 2004, George Cohen, review of The Bourne Legacy, p. 1825.
Economist, August 20, 1983, review of Beneath an Opal Moon, p. 83.
Entertainment Weekly, August 19, 1994, Danet Steffens, p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 1992, review of Black Blade, p. 1400; August 1, 1993, review of The Kaisho, p. 957; May 15, 1994, review of Floating City, p. 652; April 15, 1995, review of Second Skin, pp. 497-498; May 15, 1997, review of Dark Homecoming, p. 745; April 1, 2001, review of The Ring of Five Dragons, p. 446.
Library Journal, June 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of The Ring of Five Dragons, p. 106.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 22, 1980, Don G. Campbell, review of The Ninja; April 10, 1983, review of Black Heart, p. 2; February 2, 1986, review of Jian, p. 6; May 15, 1988, review of Zero, p. 12; February 10, 1991, p. 6; May 19, 1991, review of White Ninja, p. 14.
New York Times Book Review, June 7, 1981, Peter Andrews, review of Sirens, p. 15; April 10, 1983, Jack Sullivan, review of Black Heart, p. 29; September 23, 1984, Martin Levin, review of The Miko, p. 28; February 1, 1987, William J. Harding, review of Shan, p. 20; June 26, 1988, Burt Hochberg, review of Zero, p. 38; February 12, 1989, Newgate Callendar, review of French Kiss, p. 20; February 25, 1990, Newgate Callendar, review of White Ninja, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, April 11, 1980, review of The Ninja, p. 71; December 15, 1989, Sybil Steinberg, review of White Ninja, p. 58; December 14, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Angel Eyes, p. 55; December 14, 1992, review of Black Blade, pp. 39-40; August 16, 1993, review of The Kaisho, pp. 85-86; June 20, 1994, review of Floating City, p. 96; May 22, 1995, review of Second Skin, p. 49; April 23, 2001, review of The Ring of Five Dragons, p. 54; November 12, 2001, review of Art Kills, p. 38; June 7, 2004, a review of The Bourne Legacy, p. 32; August 2, 2004, review of The Bourne Legacy, p. 20; July 31, 2006, review of The Testament, p. 48.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), January 22, 1989, review of French Kiss, p. 7; June 18, 1995, Chris Petrakos, review of Second Skin, p. 6.
Washington Post Book World, September 1, 1985, Michele Slung, review of Jian, p. 8.
West Coast Review of Books, January, 1983, review of Black Heart, p. 29; 1987 annual, review of Shan, p. 32; 1991 annual, review of Angel Eyes, p. 30.
Eric Van Lustbader Home Page, http://www.ericvanlustbader.com (October 31, 2006).
Harriet Klausner's Review Archive, http://harrietklausner.wwwi.com/ (October 19, 2006), review of The Testament.