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The Bourne Retribution by Eric Van LustbaderBy Michael F. Stewart

Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne series about a secret agent who has lost his memory requires little introduction. This, the 11th installment, and 8th written by Eric Van Lustbader, continues the saga of one of the most popular and compelling characters in modern fiction.

Jason Bourne has escaped powerful governments, outsmarted countless assassins, and defeated terrorists’ plans for global chaos. But now, Bourne wants only one thing: retribution.

Bourne’s friend Eli Yadin, head of Mossad, learns that Ouyang Jidan, a senior member of China’s Politburo, and a major Mexican drug lord may have been trafficking in something far more deadly than drugs. Bourne agrees to investigate, but only because he has a personal agenda: Ouyang Jidan is the man who ordered Rebeka–one of the only people Bourne has ever truly cared about–murdered. Bourne is determined to avenge her death, but in the process he becomes enmeshed in a monstrous world-wide scheme involving the Chinese, Mexicans, and Russians.

I had the good luck to ask Eric Van Lustbader questions as I devoured THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION.

Following the death of Rebeka, Bourne drifts and struggles to excise the images of her murder from his mind. But when Mossad leader, Yadin, approaches him with a task, he finds his opportunity to fulfill a brutal vendetta: to kill the man who ordered the assassination of his love.

Since we’re all a product of our memories, what do you think it’s like to fall in love when you have no past?

I would think it would be like falling in love for the first time.  But remember, Bourne has full recall of the recent past, so he can compare Rebeka to previous women he has come in contact with in the last ten years or so.  On the other hand, all the things that happened to him before he was shot in the Mediterranean is lost to him.

Part of the premise for Mossad’s involvement is that they wish to avenge the death of their top agent, Rebeka. Do secret services regularly go out of their way to take their own forms of revenge even if it’s not through the manipulation of other agents?

My experience is absolutely yes, even if it’s off the books or unsanctioned.  I would think it’s less a matter of pride than of survival, although I suppose both could factor into the decision.  In any event, you can’t allow the murder to go unpunished.

Meanwhile, in another plot thread of THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION, the as-beautiful-as-she-is-deadly Maricruz Encarnación has left China in a bid to unite the Los Zetas and Sinoloa cartels with her own in order to end Mexico’s bloody drug war. If successful, her ploy will provide a steady supply of drugs, a clean avenue for money laundering using the art market, and untold wealth for her husband Ouyang Jidan. It’s a bold move, but in returning to Mexico after her father’s death, Maricruz places her life in the hands of some of the world’s most vicious killers.

These represent two very different cultures; how are they compatible?

I don’t think they’re compatible in the least, and I make it very clear that this is the case.  But cultures aside, both are susceptible to the same human weaknesses that cross all cultures: in this case, corruption and greed.  That is another point the novel makes. Having been a Sociology major at Columbia makes these societal insights fascinating and second nature to me.

Maricruz suggests that the cartels use art as a means to launder funds. How common is this as a money laundering method in China or Mexico?

Over the last several years there have been numerous articles in papers like the FINANCIAL TIMES about the Chinese traffic in artwork to launder money.  Ironically, there are now so many talented Chinese artists who can make perfect copies of paintings by highly sought-after artists that a high percentage of the artwork that sells for millions is fake.  Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.  And why would I when it’s all real?

Bourne arrives in Shanghai and quickly goes off the grid, giving rise to a hunt by all interested parties. The stakes are high for Ouyang Jidan. He is manoeuvring to climb the ladder of his political party to take his rightful place in the Politburo. It’s a faceoff between his liberalization ideals and the more traditional leaning of his enemy Cho Xilan.

How true to real life are the tensions within China’s Politburo?

Everything I have written in THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION about the Politburo is entirely accurate.  It’s a snake-pit.

Maricruz’s character plays a pivotal (in every sense of the word) role in THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION. She is full of contrasts. No other character has as clear and as parabolic an arc. Were all of her many surprises planned from the outset?

To be honest, no.  Of course, at some point in the writing her entire arc became perfectly clear.  She is another example of a character who came to life in front of me and told me who she was and where she was going.  Ain’t fiction writing great!

The most impressive fact about THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION is that a story of vengeance can have such a multilayered international scope. The novel is filled with unlikely alliances, double crosses, and dramatic reversals. How do you manage to keep track of the complexity of the narrative and furthermore the complexity compounded across eight novels?

The short answer is I’m dyslexic.  My mind runs at a very high speed.  Also, I can see and create connections over a long span.  The longer answer is that I’m always thinking about the next book in the series, which allows me to plant a character or institution in the current book that will come to the fore in the next one.  But there’s another answer that I suppose is just as valid: I don’t know; I was born with the talent.

Reading THE BOURNE RETRIBUTION is a lesson in craft. Every character, no matter how small, has a defined motivation often based on a shared history, and more often than not, one that leads to a dramatic reversal. One hard lesson I learned early on in my writing is to write the smallest story possible. That readers require an intimate story to engage the character.

The counter to this is that a book needs to have a compelling high concept, and I’d say that the espionage thriller category holds the gold standard in this requirement. It’s impressive indeed when you can pull off both, a highly personal story within a high concept of such scope that it spans not only Mexican drug cartels, the Chinese Politburo, and the Mossad, but generations of their members.



EricVanLustbader - ColorERIC VAN LUSTBADER is the author of numerous bestselling novels including FIRST DAUGHTER, BLOOD TRUST, THE NINJA, and the international bestsellers featuring Jason Bourne: THE BOURNE LEGACY, THE BOURNE BETRAYAL, THE BOURNE SANCTION, THE BOURNE DECEPTION, THE BOURNE OBJECTIVE, and THE BOURNE DOMINION.

For more information, you can visit You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Michael F. Stewart
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