The Ludlum Silencer


I recently re-read The Holcroft Covenant, by Robert Ludlum.  The first time I read it was around the time it was published, in the late 1970s.  It was the first of his books that I read, and I liked it enough then to seek out his earlier works and read them as well.  A couple of years after, he published The Bourne Identity, which was easily my favorite of his books, and which everyone knows about now thanks to Matt Damon (who, incidentally, was 10 years old when the book came out).


If you’re not familiar with Ludlum’s work, I do recommend his stuff to you if you like a lot of intrigue and suspense and a fast-paced plot, with spies and assassins and ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  The Ludlum novels (at least the ones I have read) have a high entertainment value; what more could you ask for from your fiction?  Robert Ludlum also died under mysterious and intriguing circumstances, an irony he would have probably relished if he wasn’t dead.


That’s not why I’m writing this entry, though.  I picked up on something early in the novel this time, something I was probably too inexperienced to catch in the ’70s.  Ludlum has one of his characters screwing a silencer onto a revolver.


I’m in favor of artistic license.  I will even accept that a silencer will reduce the sound of a gunshot to what Ludlum calls a “spit” and what Hollywood likes to illustrate as a pffft! sound, like a tiny fart noise.  The truth is that silencers are more accurately called suppressors because a “silenced” gun becomes less noisy than a jet engine, but still pretty dang loud.  Jackhammer loud, even.  A silencer succeeds in making a big gun sound like a smaller gun, and makes it more difficult to tell how far away the shooter is, which is its main benefit.  It doesn’t silence anything.  Forget what you’ve seen in movies and on television.


But, even after allowing for artistic license, it is impossible to silence an open revolver because of the gaps between the cylinder and the frame.  I doubt using a pillow would work either (how many times have you seen that?).


Anyway, this startled me, momentarily at least, out of the fictive dream.  I know this sounds like I’m nitpicking, but I’m not really.  I continued to read the book, and I enjoyed it.  But, there for a moment it was like getting a sneak peek of the man behind the curtain.  Ludlum had been a successful actor prior to turning to writing full-time, and the man knew how to put on a show, how to entertain.  And that’s what I had to remind myself and try to turn off that analytical portion of my brain.  Here we are now; entertain us.


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