In 1974, James Grady introduced the literary world to his now-classic character, CIA agent, Ronald Malcolm—codename Condor. The bestselling novel Six Days of the Condor, which was originally published in 1974, centers around the CIA operative whose colleagues are murdered in cold blood. A fast-paced, suspenseful read, Six Days of the Condor saw great success, and was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford, titled Three Days of the Condor. Demand for more of Condor’s thrilling escapades even led Grady to publish three sequels.
In this new collection, Condor: The Short Takes, Grady revisits the emblematic characters behind the codename, exploring political intrigue from a new perspective. Drawing on his own past as an investigative journalist who chased risky stories about espionage and drug trafficking, Grady has crafted heart-pounding short stories focused on political conspiracies both abroad and in the heart of America.
Condor: The Short Takes includes a variety of short fiction centered on the CIA operative that has been published together in one volume for the first time, as well as an original new novella and an essay dissecting the origins of Condor. The suspenseful stories range in plot from a secret insane asylum housing CIA agents to dangerous classified documents newly unearthed in the Library of Congress. The result is a thrilling collection by an author that Publishers Weekly lauds as “writing at the top of his, or anyone else’s, game.”
Read on for an excerpt from Condor: The Short Takes, in which Condor makes a daring escape from his own house after realizing that his hidden identity has been compromised. Then, pre-order the collection, which will be published on April 2, 2019.
Condor grabbed a messenger bag holding a shoulder-holstered upgraded 1911 .45 automatic he strapped over his long-sleeved maroon shirt. Clipped a belt holstered .45 onto his right hip. He bent—cursed the stiffening of his six decades—strapped a sheathed combat knife onto his right ankle under his washed-out black jeans. Made sure his black sneaker-like shoes were tied. Glanced at his bag’s gear: the dopp kit with toothbrush and paste, razor, five cycles of daily meds; ammo mags; three burner phones and charge cords; an envelope with $2,000 in cash; three passports and driver’s licenses; three wallets packed with identity-back-up “pocket litter” and credit cards; a thick packet of lilac-scented baby wipes.
He pulled on a faded black leather bomber jacket that covered his guns.
He shoved his cellphone, wallet and keys into jacket pockets, glanced at the computer screens: Screen One waterfalled data, flashed PROTOCOL PEARL HARBOR. Screen Two flashed images from inside the house—the kitchen with its corpse, the living room, the bed in the next room where he woke up with Merle. Those views kept glitching. Blackness jarred by intermittent lightning flashes commanded Screen Three.
He looped the messenger bag across his chest—made it hard to grab the shoulder-holstered .45, but the gun on his right hip was still a clear draw.
Condor met Merle in the hall. Her Go Bag hung like a heavy purse from her shoulder.
A secret underground emergency escape tunnel ran from the basement to the trees behind the house and beyond the black iron poles fence, its entrance covered by covert cameras, but based on the screens Condor’d just checked, those cameras couldn’t be accessed or trusted.
Plus, Justin knew that escape route. The NSA tech/security/medical aides knew little about the V they’d been detailed to via Top Secret/Code Word Access bureaucratic machinations, but they knew their deployment’s emergency protocols—they had to. Since Justin knew about the tunnel, whoever money changes flipped him into a traitor also probably knew, logically would post a backup strike option for Justin failing and his targets following Evac Procedures.
But watchers outside the house might think that Justin hadn’t taken his chance yet. That he was operational.
Condor strained to sense everything as he hurried Merle down the stairs.
No sounds from an attacking breach team. No dead bang grenades. Scents of his and Merle’s sweat. Her pine shampoo. Their fear.
Bottom of the stairs, he made her look at him: “One chance.”
“Good chance,” he lied. “They don’t know we know. Our car’s parked in the driveway, facing toward the gate to the street. Don’t run. Get in, seatbelt. We clear the gate like we’re going to the grocery store but we’re in the wind.”
“You should have let me die last time—was your fault then, too. You’re Condor and you always bring death.”
“I give what I get. Let’s go.”
He stepped out the front door into the sunlit morning first, braced for a bullet …
… that didn’t come.
Condor dawdled between Merle and the world as she scurried around the back of the red Ford, dove into the front seat, slammed the car’s door. He slid behind the steering wheel, used a twentieth-century key to turn on the engine, raised the gate-opening wand—
A bullet punched a coin-sized hole through the driver’s side window just beyond his face.
Punched a fist-sized hole through the front passenger window—a trajectory Merle’s head had bent out of as she curled in her seat to click her seatbelt.
Condor slammed the gearshift into Drive.
Aimed the security wand at the gate—
—nothing: the iron barred, electronically secured system stayed shut.
He punched the gas and the Ford surged toward the locked gate.
A bullet zinged off the car roof.
Condor cranked the steering wheel. The Ford shot off the brick paved driveway and onto the green lawn in a loop that aimed it back at the gothic house.
Merle screamed: “What are you doing?”
He stomped on the brakes. Tires gouged living earth.
Condor slammed the gearshift into reverse. Lined up the iron gate between the Ford’s side mirrors just like he had driving truck in pay for college summers. Stomped on the gas.
The Ford slammed its backend into the iron bars gate at 39 mph. As Condor’d gambled, the air bags didn’t deploy. The collision knocked the gates open. Knocked one gate free so it spun off the Ford’s red roof as Condor punched the gas, the road outta here in his windshield.
“We could have been killed!” yelled Merle.
“Any time, any day!” Condor swerved through a yellow light.
“Are they following us?”
He checked his mirrors: “Who the fuck knows.”
In this passage, Grady sets the scene of the stinging betrayal and mad dash to a safe haven that form the backdrop of “Russian Roulette of the Condor.” The novella features an aging Condor struggling to protect the lives of himself and his loved ones against insidious threats from within his own circle.
To read more, pre-order Condor: The Short Takes, which hits shelves April 2, 2019.
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Featured still from "Three Days of the Condor" via Paramount Pictures