As a practitioner of the fiction of information, no one else comes close to him.
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Condon attacked his targets wholeheartedly but with a uniquely original style and wit that made almost any paragraph from one of his books instantly recognizable. From his novel, Money Is Love , comes a fine example of the "lunacy of his metaphors": "Mason took in enough cannabis smoke to allow a Lipan Apache manipulating a blanket over it to transmit the complete works of Tennyson. Woolworth vanishing cream might have on vanishing an aircraft carrier of the Forrestal class when rubbed into the armor plate.
Condon was also enamored of long lists of detailed trivia that, while at least marginally pertinent to the subject at hand, are almost always an exercise in gleeful exaggeration and joyful spirits. In An Infinity of Mirrors, for instance, those in attendance of the funeral of a famous French actor and notable lover are delineated as:. Seven ballerinas of an amazing spectrum of ages were at graveside.
Actresses of films, opera, music halls, the theatre, radio, carnivals, circuses, pantomimes, and lewd exhibitions mourned in the front line. They attended twenty-eight hundred and seventy strong, plus eleven male friends of the deceased. Lingeman praised the book in particular and Condon in general for his "extravagance of invention unique with him.
Not everyone was as exhilarated by Condon's antics, however. In a long Times Sunday review just two days after Lingeman's, Roger Sale excoriated Condon as a writer of "how-to books" in general, this book in particular, and Condon's habit of using lists: "A lot of it is done with numbers arbitrarily chosen to falsely simulate precision. All of Condon's books have, to an unknown degree, the names of real people in them as characters, generally very minor or peripheral.
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The most common, which appears in all of his books, is some variation of Franklin M. Among them are F. Marx Heller. The real-life Heller was apparently a television director in New York City in the s, '60s, and 70s, who initially lived on Long Island and then moved to a house on Rockrimmon Road in Stamford, Connecticut. Late in life Heller grew a thick white beard and became a devotee of needlework —both traits that the fictional Hellers shared, sometimes to ludicrous effect, as when a battle-hardened Admiral Heller is depicted issuing orders while absorbed in needlework.
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The real-life Heller made one needlework depiction of the manor house in Ireland in which Condon was living at the time. Condon was a great friend of actor Allan Melvin , having written a nightclub act for him. Bilko" , on which Melvin played Cpl. For many years a Hollywood publicity man for Walt Disney and other studios, Condon took up writing relatively late in life and his first novel, The Oldest Confession , was not published until he was The demands of his career with United Artists—promoting dreadful movies such as The Pride and the Passion and A King and Four Queens —led to a series of bleeding ulcers and a determination to do something else.
His next book, The Manchurian Candidate , combined all the elements that defined his works for the next 30 years: nefarious conspiracies, satire, black humor, outrage at political and financial corruption in the American scene, breath-taking elements from thrillers and spy fiction, horrific and grotesque violence, and an obsession with the minutiae of food, drink, and fast living.
It quickly made him, for a few years at least, the center of a cult devoted to his works. As he rapidly produced more and more books with the same central themes, however, this following fell away and his critical reputation diminished. Still, over the next three decades Condon produced works that returned him to favor, both with the critics and the book-buying public, such as Mile High , Winter Kills , and the first of the Prizzi books, Prizzi's Honor. Of his numerous books that were turned into Hollywood movies, The Manchurian Candidate was filmed twice.
The first version, in , which starred Frank Sinatra , Laurence Harvey , Janet Leigh , and Angela Lansbury , followed the book with great fidelity, and is now highly regarded as a glimpse into the mindset of its era.
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Janet Maslin, writing already over two decades ago, said in The New York Times In that it was "arguably the most chilling piece of cold war paranoia ever committed to film, yet by now it has developed a kind of innocence. Beginning with his first book, The Oldest Confession , Condon frequently prefaced his novels with excerpts of verse from a so-called Keener's Manual ; these epigraphs foreshadowed the theme of the book or, in several instances, gave the book its title. The Keener's Manual , however, was a fictional invention by Condon and does not actually exist. A "keen" is a "lamentation for the dead uttered in a loud wailing voice or sometimes in a wordless cry"  and a "keener" is a professional mourner, usually a woman in Ireland, who "utters the keen Five of Condon's first six books derived their titles from the fictional manual, the only exception being his most famous book, The Manchurian Candidate.
In a California software engineer noticed several paragraphs in The Manchurian Candidate that appeared nearly identical to portions of the celebrated novel I, Claudius by the English writer Robert Graves.
She wrote about the apparent plagiarism on her website but her discovery went unnoticed by most of the world until Adair Lara, a longtime San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, wrote a lengthy article about the accusation in By this time, however, more than seven years had passed since Condon's death and Lara's article also failed to generate any literary interest outside the Chronicle.
In a long, convoluted passage on page 25 Condon reflects on "mistresses" and their relationship—a peripheral one, to the reader—to Graves's writings about "Major Male" Deities and "Major Female" Deities. As Angel was published only a year after Candidate , there is no question, therefore, about Condon's familiarity with the works of Robert Graves.
Condon's familiarity with Graves is also in evidence on p. One of the characters in the book purchases a copy of Graves' Antigua, Penny, Puce! This article incorporates material from the Citizendium article " Richard Condon ", which is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.
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