Condon: Not “Texas” Enough

When Dallas writ-er Richard Condon died at 81 this past April, many fans of his novels-among them Winter Kills, The Man-churian Candidate, and Prizzi’s Honor-had two reactions: sadness, and surprise. Dallas writer? Condon, one of the leading literary satirists of our time, lived quietly, spinning out his tales of rampant egos and political intrigue. Many never associated him with Texas or Dallas, where he lived since 1980.

As a longtime admirer, I hoped Condon had left something in the pipeline-perhaps an unfinished manuscript, now being prepared for posthumous release? Sadly, after a dozen phone calls to editors, publishers and major literary agencies, I found only three people who had any notion of who Richard Condon was.

Prizzi’s Honor? “Oh,that Jack Nicholson thing?” one editor responded. Another thought The Manchurian Can-didate, Condon’s darkly comic 1959 novel of McCarthyesque brainwashing-which has never been out of print, and became a superb movie with Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury-was a political documentary.

After a circuitous search. I finally located Richard Matson, Condon’s agent, who informed me that, alas, there would be no posthumous novel or screenplay. Me did say that there were discussions underway for the reissue of all of Condon’s major works, and that there had been demonstrable interest from Hollywood in recent Condon books.

Condon’s relative anonymity among the publishing principals of New York City was echoed in the lack of attention paid him by the literati of his adopted home state. Me was never recognized by the Texas Institute of Letters or any other major Texas literary organization.

Condon’s widow Evelyn says that many assumed he was not, by anything more than residence, a Texan. But, she adds, “Almost everyone in Dallas is from somewhere else. ” She calls her late husband a “prophet unrecognized in his own land.”


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