Reactions from readers of the book
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The Eiger Sanction
Originally published 1972. Re-issued by Crown Publishers, NY, May 2005, trade paper edition in a matched set of 5 Trevanian titles
When it originally appeared in 1972, The Eiger Sanction created the then new publishing phenomenon of the world-wide best seller.
In his own words
Trevanian, (answering written questions from Judy Quinn of Publisher's Weekly, in 1998) said about it. In the event, (Trevanian) got the idea of writing a quick little spoof on the then-popular super-spy/action genre. (He did this having seen only two films within this genre and having read only a third of one of Ian Fleming's books — all he could manage before boredom weighted his eyelids.) He tossed the spoof manuscript over the transom of ten or so publishers whose names he had copied out of some sort of manual for would-be writers. He received total silence from about half these publishers, and rejections from the rest, save for two, one of which was Crown Publishers. They wanted to do the book.
The realization that his little caprice might actually fall under the eyes of educated people gave Trevanian pause, and he rewrote the entire thing, having decided that here was an opportunity to blend spoof and acrid wit with socially — and politically — responsible messages. The resultant book was The Eiger Sanction, in which he blended tongue-in-cheek derring-do, a raft of characters with hokum Restoration names (Randy Nickers, Cherry Pitt, Yurasis Dragon, etc.), realistic scenes of Grade Six mountain climbing (a sport that had long interested him) and the necessary task of ridiculing and diminishing the CIA. (This was the late 1960s, remember, and the Bay of Pigs-sort of CIA bungling was the one thing most likely to bring the world to atomic disaster.)
The book became an international bestseller. But to Trevanian's discomfort, even embarrassment, it was only recognized as a spoof by critics in Holland and Norway. Elsewhere, particularly in America, it was swallowed as a straight example of the genre. (Some reviewers did sense a dissonance between the genre and the standard of the writing, one in Britain calling the book "a James Bond tale written for the highly literate.")
Some reactions from readers of the book
A reader from New Jersey , July 9, 1999 Great. If you haven't read Shibumi don't. Read this one first. One should crawl before they walk. In many ways I enjoyed this book more though. In Hemlock, Trevanian created the perfect man of the times (early 1970s); Cold and disconnected from society, Hemlock is without conscience or remorse or guilt. He is socially incomplete, all too aware, and seemingly incapable to change this. He is a reflection of the fragmented seventies. Now more than ever, we need Hemlock back! Hemlock vs Hel? Hint, hint
A reader from Colorado Springs, Colorado , July 16, 1998 The best spy/assassin novel I've ever read. I liked the main character, John Hemlock. He's an assassin for the government armed with a sharp tongue. He is a man without conscience but surprisingly Trevanian does a great job of getting you to like his character. I don't wish to spoil the entire book, so if anyone out there likes spy novels, this is the one for you.
A reader from Eurasia , July 12, 1998 Trevanian, again... Well, certainly not a Shibumi. But for those who have been overwhelmingly fascinated by Shibumi, that book is satisfactory. It shows the readers the extent of Trevanian's intellect and knowledge. But I cannot say that I actually liked Hemlock, he is rather cold-blooded compared with Hel, he is more like a robot, than an actual novel character. But still it is Trevanian, and I simply LOVE this guy's work.:))
A reader , May 19, 1997 Highly Recommended. Trevanian has bestowed upon us a true enigma in Jonathan Hemlock. Art scholar, mountaineer, and world-class assasin, Hemlock is the most interesting fictional character I have read about in a long time. The dialogue is quick and witty and the story compelling. Alas, I was sad to have finished it. Spy novel lovers, put this at the top of your list.