Six Days of the Condor by  James Grady

Grady, J. (1974). Six days of the condor. New York: Norton.

This is the book that the movie Three Days of the Condor was based on (1975 Sydney Pollack directed, with: Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson, Max von Sydow, etc.). I admit I saw the movie first and then wanted to read the book. The book is usually better, but more of that later.

The plot of Six Days of the Condor goes something like this:

Our hero, Ronald Malcolm (code name Condor), works for the CIA as a literary researcher. He works for an obscure sub-department reading literature (fiction, spy novels, mysteries, crime novels, etc.) looking for possible leaks or ideas. If a plot in a book is too close to an actual event the department reports it and the author may be investigated. One of Malcolm’s coworkers (Heidegger) discovers some discrepancies in the books (financial/ shipping rather than literature). Seven cases of books were shipped to a receiving station in Washington State, but only 5 cases were shipped to their department. Heidegger bypasses the head of their little branch and sends an inquiry/ alert message to the parent department in the CIA. Unfortunately for everyone, the wrong people get this message and Heidegger is killed at home and a hit team is sent to the literary researchers and kills everyone in the office. Fortunately for Malcolm, he is out of the office getting lunch for the group when they are hit. He comes back to the carnage and goes on the run trying to survive.

He calls the CIA panic line and identifies himself as Condor. They arrange to pick him up and send two people to meet him. One is someone he knows by sight who works for the CIA at the main Langley office but who is not a field officer. The other is a field officer, Weatherby, not known to Condor. The meeting is arranged but when it takes place Weatherby shoots at him (he is part of a rogue group within the CIA who are trying to wipe out the literary research branch because of what Heidegger discovered). Condor fires back and escapes but Weatherby then kills Condor’s friend who is there for the meeting. Now Condor has no idea whom to trust and is on the run trying to survive.

This is a classic cold war era spy novel except it takes place domestically and really only involves CIA agents (no other countries are involved). I won’t spoil the ending for you but I have mixed feelings about whether I prefer the movie ending or the book ending. The book is definitely better, but in some ways I like the movie ending better. Without giving away too much, there are two main “bad guys”: the high up CIA person and a rogue internationally known hit man. In the movie one is killed and the other ends up helping Condor, while in the book the other is killed and the one who lives doesn’t help at all but is just “caught”. I prefer the movie scenario in the end but the book is better in general. So, take your pick read one then watch the other or vice versa.

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