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The Manchurian Candidate  
1st edition
Author Richard Condon
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Thriller novel
Publisher McGraw-Hill
Publication date 1959
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 311 pp
ISBN 1-56858-270-6
OCLC Number 52409655
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 21
LC Classification PS3553.O487 M36 2003

The Manchurian Candidate (1959) by Richard Condon, is a political thriller novel about the son of a prominent US political family who has been brainwashed into being an unwitting assassin for the Communist Party. The novel has twice been cinematically adapted, in 1962 and 2004.



Captain Bennett Marco, Sergeant Raymond Shaw, and the rest of their infantry platoon are kidnapped during the Korean War in 1952. They are taken to Manchuria, and are brainwashed to believe that Shaw saved their lives in combat — for which Congress awards him the Medal of Honor.

Years after the war, Marco, now back in the United States working as an intelligence officer, begins suffering the recurring nightmare of Shaw murdering two of his comrades, all clinically observed by Chinese and Russian intelligence officials. When Marco learns that another soldier from the platoon also has been suffering the same nightmare, he sets to uncovering the mystery and its meaning.

It is revealed that the Communists have been using Shaw as a sleeper agent, a guiltless assassin subconsciously activated by seeing the “Queen of Diamonds” playing card while playing solitaire. As such, he obeys orders which he then forgets. Shaw’s Soviet secret service controller is his domineering mother Eleanor, a ruthless power broker working with the Communists to execute a "palace coup d’état" to quietly overthrow the U.S. Government with the "Manchurian Candidate," her husband, McCarthy-esque Senator Johnny Iselin.

In the end, Shaw is given a sniper's rifle and is assigned to shoot a leading presidential candidate during his acceptance speech at a national convention. At the last moment, a remarkable plot twist foils the plan.

Movie Sources

Many of the novel's elements were inspired by the harsh 1950's realities of the Korean War and McCarthyism. Other elements may have been inspired by other assassination movies of the period. Author Richard Condon became a novelist in the late 1950's after twenty years' experience as a Hollywood press agent. The Manchurian Candidate was his second novel. Among Hollywood thrillers that contain elements akin to those in The Manchurian Candidate are Suddenly (1954) and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956),[citation needed]. Suddenly, a presidential assassination movie, stars Frank Sinatra as a mentally disturbed American war veteran who uses a scope-mounted rifle and an elevated window for a sniper's perch. In The Man Who Knew Too Much,[citation needed] Alfred Hitchcock's political assassination movie starring James Stewart, an assassin attempts to shoot a prime minister dead from a box seat at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

See also


  • Condon, Richard. "'Manchurian Candidate' in Dallas." The Nation, December 28, 1963.
  • Loken, John. Oswald's Trigger Films: The Manchurian Candidate, We Were Strangers, Suddenly? (2000), pp. 16, 36.

External links



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