Monday, August 2, 2010

The Eiger Sanction by Trevanian (audiobook)

The Eiger Sanction was first published in 1972 by US author Rodney Whitaker who wrote under the pseudonym Trevanian.  It is an action packed spy thriller romp told very much in spoofish tongue in cheek style.  In its day it was a world wide best seller, and as a self confessed fan of the spy novel genre, I was curious to check it out. 

Our hero is Dr Jonathan Hemlock who is an art professor, art collector and mountaineer.  He lives in an old renovated church and has an extensive art collection. To keep himself in the style to which he has become accustomed he carriers out assassinations, also referred to as "sanctions" for the a US intelligence agency.

His final sanction, for he has decided to leave this particular line of work on its completion, takes him to the treacherous Eiger mountain in the Swiss Alps.  A complication in this particular sanction is that Jonathan does not know ahead of time which of his three fellow climbers is the sanction target.  The action sequences on the treacherous face of the Eiger are very well written and as I was listening I found myself totally absorbed.

The Eiger Sanction is a cleverly written spoof of the spy novel.  I found myself smiling or laughing out loud at times as I listened.   However it does strike me as a bit dated.   Unfortunately there is the occasional reference or joke that is frankly not acceptable anymore and I found myself wincing at times also.  It is a shame, and it got me thinking about the difference between novels that are timeless and able to be fully enjoyed by generations of readers, and those which may be well plotted and well written,  as The Eiger Sanction surely is, but seem a bit crass and dated when read, or listened to, in the light of our present day.


  1. Oh My Gosh ... The Eiger Sanction!! I read this AGES ago when I was a kid. Of course, it never occurred to me that it was a spoof of spy novels! I took it totally at face value. But I do remember the climbing scenes were very well done. I went on to read almost all of his other books too -- Shimbumi being a favorite! Thanks for reminding me of a book I'd kind of forgotten about!


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