Wednesday, June 1, 2016

James Grady, Last Days of the Condor

James Grady, Last Days of the Condor
Forge Books (TOR), 2016
ISBN 978-0-7653-7841-5

This is a sequel to Six Days of the Condor, which, in my opinion, was a good but not great spy thriller.  [It was made into a great spy movie, of course, starring Robert Redford (who was actually old for the part), Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, and John Houseman, and was directed by Sydney Pollack; the screenplay was by Grady and Lorenzo Semple, Jr.  It is, as a result, one of two movies in which the author of the book was involved in writing a screenplay that vastly improved on the novel.  The other is The Big Fix.]

Grady is not a graceful writer. But the first 80% or so of this book is killer.  Condor has been released from a facility where he was being treated for, well, being crazy.  He's back in Washington, working at the Library of Congress, deciding whether books being disposed of by one of another government agency should be saved of pulped.  He is, of course, under surveillance, and one day, when he arrives home, he finds one of his watchers dead, rather gruesomely, in his living room.  He goes on the run, partly not to be sent back, partly to stay alive, and partly to discover why. 

In the course of his escape, he meets and teams up with Faye Dozier,* who was another of the CIA people keeping tabs on him since his release.  They manage to avoid death, but only by creating an incident in a subway station that makes his flight hard to completely cover up (even if the particulars can be disguised).  They wind up at the apartment of Merle Mardigan, a 50-something government employee whom Condor has seen (as I recall in a coffee shop) and wanted to get to know.  She, somewhat unwillingly, provides them with shelter.

But the time comes when they have to try to come in from the cold, and that’s where things go, as the Brits say, pear-shaped.

The book is mostly a compelling read, and I, at any rate, became very involved with Condor, with Faye, and with Merle.  (The initial part of Merle's involvement may echo a little too closely Six Days of the Condor.)   We see Condor, now in his 60s, trying to recover the skills—or at least his knowledge—of his earlier days (there is one reference to Six Days... in the book).

But the last roughly 20 pages seem to me to be a cop-out, as if Grady didn't really know how to end it.  The ending does not provide much resolution, nor does it leave us wondering what will come next.  But up to that point, it is very good.

*I can’t help thinking that a woman named Faye D. is a tip of the hat to Faye Dunaway.

(Includes, after the book concludes, a "prequel" to this book, "Next Day of the Condor," which should probably be read first.) 

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