Richard Condon Essay - Condon, Richard (Vol. 6)

Condon, Richard (Vol. 6)

Condon, Richard 1915–

Condon, an American novelist, has also written a play, Men of Distinction, and several screenplays. He is best known for The Manchurian Candidate, a tough and exciting thriller written, like most of his fiction, with gusto, a "Rabelaisian affection for things in excess," and a "gargantuan love of the grotesque." Other well known Condon novels are Mile High and The Vertical Smile. (See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 1-4, rev. ed.)

Since The Manchurian Candidate, in 1960, Richard Condon has averaged nearly a novel a year, each with an intricate and inventive plot through which subtle moralities of violence and crime have been explored. In Arigato …, by parodying the clichés of the modern thriller Mr Condon has written a playfully preposterous book….

Mr Condon handles this fantasy with great wit and facility, and has the skill to make a serious study of the moral nature of the Captain [Huntingdon, the protagonist,] while keeping his tongue rammed against his cheek in every other respect; at least until the final chapters, in which an unexpected violence is introduced.

"All Lost," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers, Ltd., 1972; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), December 8, 1972, p. 1477.

The particular reality we call 'life' offers different kinds of probability and satisfaction from those of the novel, and it is unwise of Mr Condon to enter into competition with it for 'truth' or adventure. No one, for example, is going to take seriously Oriental manservants who say things like "Anything so long [as] chili and noodles, hey, Nick? I fix." Or a beautiful heiress whose face sets in a "mask of tragedy". [Winter Kills] falls apart into scraps of received phraseology and it is so bound by the conventional laws of fiction that the conventionally surprising ending can be guessed a third of the way through—on the antique, statistical principle of bad crime fiction that the guilty party is always the one who is least suspected. The really guilty party in this case, however, is Mr Condon himself. I am not left impatient for more from his computer. (p. 372)

Peter Ackroyd, "Old Lines," in The Spectator (© 1974 by The Spectator; reprinted by permission of The Spectator), September 21, 1974, pp. 372-73.

After several dolorous books, Richard Condon, no black humorist but an eyeball-red one in the great, ranting days of The Manchurian Candidate and The Oldest Confession, seems to be stirring faintly back to life. Money Is Love does have patches so swampy that even addicted admirers will cast down their eyes in shame, but the life signs are nevertheless strong….

This is not great Condon, but it is good Condon. (p. K8)

Incoherence approaches an absolute. It would take George Bernard Shaw to handle the [story's] resultant ironies of God, man and money. Condon merely bangs the ironies together, hoping that they will make comical sounds. Such is his rare and clangorous gift that sometimes they do. (p. 74)

John Skow, "Liederkranz," in Time (reprinted by permission from Time, The Weekly Newsmagazine; copyright Time Inc.), June 2, 1975, pp. K8, 74.

In such marvelous novels as "The Manchurian Candidate," "The Vertical Smile" and "Winter Kills," Condon operates like a black humorist, vivisecting Homo sapiens and his technological hangups. By these standards, ["Money is Love"] is rather a mixed bag.

The plot is wild and wildly confusing, the characters caricatures of corporate hustlers, modish suburban matrons, mafiosi, even Zeus and the major gods of ancient Greece, as well as a group of archangels and Satanic fiends. The hero, an aggressive insurance salesman named Eugene Quebaro, is murdered just as the ninth Joint Commission for the Evaluation of Sin gets under way in New York City, intending to write a new moral code for earthlings. Zeus and his godlings are also in town to promote Spiro Agnew's political comeback….

All this gives Condon an opportunity to create one of his surreal universes that reflect reality like a funhouse mirror. As one minion of the devil observes, earthlings aren't very good at sex and in fact are "fast reaching the point where they preferred to watch it: on movie screens, on Scrabble boards…. Soon the question would be: who could be persuaded to do it while they watched it?"

There are some wonderful scenes, but they succeed more as set pieces than as links in the narrative. And Condon's satire tends to be undercut by farcical excesses—as if Lenny Bruce suddenly began taking pratfalls. But Condon's eye for hypocrisy, especially in matters of money and sex, is as sharp as ever. (p. 81)

Condon's books have been translated into twenty languages and been enjoyed by 6 million readers—which has earned him an unsocialistic income of "well over $1 million." He recently completed his fourteenth novel, "The Whisper of the Axe," a futuristic thriller about urban guerrilla warfare for which he received an advance of $180,000. But he believes that is small change compared with what a writer will earn with the perfection of the video disk…. [He has said that "a] best-selling novelist who sells 400,000 hardcover copies at best can easily sell 1.2 million video disks. I anticipated this in my contracts four years ago." In business as in his books, Condon is nothing if not a visionary. (p. 83)

Arthur Cooper, "The Entertainer," in Newsweek (copyright 1975 by Newsweek, Inc.; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), June 9, 1975, pp. 81, 83.