Friday, May 26, 2023

Six Days of the Condor

James Grady wrote Six Days of the Condor when he was 21 years-old and sold it to a publisher in 1974. Thereafter, it was adapted into the film Three Days of the Condor (Confession: Haven’t seen it) in 1975, and the book has remained popular ever since.

Ronald Malcolm is a CIA researcher in a boring desk-jockey job with an insanely-stupid purpose (it’s too embarrassing to recount here) in a Washington, DC undercover off-site. One day while picking up lunch, he returns to his office and finds that all of his co-workers have been slaughtered. It was only dumb luck that the assassins failed to hit Malcolm, whose code-name is Condor. Now, Malcolm is on-the-run in DC trying to get to safety and into the arms of the CIA Good Guys.

Grady writes the novel in a fun “third-person with a personality” voice borrowed straight from Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels. It’s an omniscient narrator with a distinctive voice who goes on tangents to give background and context to events that occurs. This fuels a really enjoyable read.

As the novel opens, Malcolm is a pretty inept operative — completely unlike James Bond, Jason Bourne or Nick Carter. He’s a bookish fellow unsuited to real fieldwork, but he’s also a rebel and iconoclast among his office peers. These instincts play into his favor during the novel’s extended cat-and-mouse game with the assassins. He takes to killing quite well as the story unfolds.

The author certainly knows how to write a bloody and violent action scene, and there are plenty to enjoy here. The novel is fast moving and exciting. However, the solution to the central mystery of the mass-killing at the CIA off-site left me cold. There were some logical fallacies large enough to drive a bus through in the bad guys’ rationale.

Overall, this is an enjoyable paperback and certainly worth reading. 21st-century reprints contain an interesting introduction by the author discussing how the book came to be and its societal impact following the hit movie. The book also spawned several sequels, including one short story collection starring the hero. Recommended. 

Buy a copy of this book HERE.

1 comment:

  1. Quite a debut novel for a 21 year old. Unfortunately, nothing I've read by Grady is as good (including the sequel, "Shadow of the Condor", which is totally forgettable). I would definitely recommend the movie; it's a 1970s conspiracy classic, like "The Parallax View" and "The Conversation".