Vilmos Kondor (born 1954) is the name (possibly pseudonym) of a successful Hungarian author, whose five criminal novels (The Budapest Noir-series) of the continuing adventures of journalist Zsigmond Gordon, living in Budapest from the 1930s to the 1950s became very popular in Hungary.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Works
- 3 Style and method
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Kondor attended university in Szeged, then he continued his studies in Paris. He graduated in chemical engineering from Sorbonne, then returned to Hungary. Currently he teaches mathematics and physics at a high school. He lives with his wife, daughters and dog in a small village near Sopron. Kondor leads a quiet life and if he gives interviews at all, he does it only in email.
Kondor worked for three years on this novel which is his fourth finished manuscript, nevertheless this is his first published work. As influences, he mentioned Jim Thompson, Charles Willeford and Dashiell Hammett. He portrayed one of his characters (Vörös Margó or in English: Red Margot) on Hammett's Dinah Brand from Red Harvest. In June 2012, Kondor finished the Budapest Noir-series with the fifth novel titled 'Budapest in November'.
A Jewish girl is found dead in the guilty city of Budapest in 1936, and, Zsigmond Gordon, a determined crime-journalist sets out to solve a murder that everyone else in his soon-to-be Fascist country wants to leave buried.
Budapest Noir received the warmest reception possible, and many reviewers hailed the novel as the first true noir written in Hungarian. One critic welcomes Kondor as the author of the first Hungarian crime thriller.
"The search (for a Hungarian crime thriller) is at an end: Vilmos Kondor’s novel is a Hungarian crime thriller and then some, one of the harder variety, in the spirit of Chandler and Hammett, but with Hungarian characters and set in the Hungarian capital in the period before World War II. (...) Kondor’s literary experiment has been a great success: the Hungarian hard-boiled crime thriller has been born, and, far predating its own period, it leads its readers – with an effect that “carries to the present” – to the literary realm of the 1930s." Péter I. Rácz in ÉS.
Bűnös Budapest (Budapest Sin)
The sequel to Budapest Noir was published in June 2009 by Agave Könyvek to great critical and commercial success. The story is set in the fall of 1939, a couple of weeks after the outbreak of World War II and features Zsigmond Gordon and Sándor Nemes, a retired detective. They start investigating two different cases: Gordon wants to find out why a former colleague and friend died, Nemes is hired to find out what happened to a huge quantity of cocain and morphine that went missing. Finally, the two cases merge and the solution involves politicians, Hungarian Nazis and dirty policemen. One reviewer writes about the "Kondor phenomenon".
“In the Hungarian book market, developments as joyful as the Kondor phenomenon are rare. Kondor is a professional genre author: he knows exactly what a hard-boiled crime novel should be like, and how to write one. His protagonist, the resigned crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon, and his chosen time and place, Budapest in the 1930s, are both complex and mysterious enough for a series to be built around them, with the same characters and the same readers, for whom the slightly more lengthy Budapest Sin will not be a disappointment.” Urfi, Péter in Magyar Narancs
A budapesti kém (The Budapest Spy)
Hungary is about to get drawn into WWII when Zsigmond Gordon is asked to do something important for his country, and sets out to catch a deadly spy in the war-torn Europe only to find the traitor in the guilty city of Budapest in 1943.
A critic calls the novel a "time machine". 
"All those who have never daydreamt about travelling back in time with a time machine to change the course of certain events, raise your hand. If any of you wish to relive Hungary as it was in the 1940s, then by all means pick up Vilmos Kondor’s latest novel, which not only reveals practical espionage facts, but also depicts the operation and circumstances reigning within the secret services of a country being driven into war."
Budapest romokban (Budapest ruined)
After the horrors of WWII, Hungary is about to become a democracy but in the summer of 1946 an assassin strikes in the middle of Budapest, the consequences are more dire than anyone would dare to think, so Gordon starts to investigate the real culprits who turn out to be not the criminal lords of the capitol but ruthless Russians officers and their more ruthless masters.
A reviewer underlined that Kondor writes about freedom that has not been common in Hungary.
“Without Vilmos Kondor’s work the acts of the man socialized for freedom (with all it consequences) couldn’t be studied in Hungarian texts.”
Budapest novemberben (Budapest in November)
October 1956 finds Gordon in exile in Vienna where he is asked to identify the dead body of his adopted daughter. Even though the girl is someone else, Gordon - along with Krisztina - hops on the last train to Budapest where a revolution just started, tanks roll on the streets, people die by the hundreds but Gordon is interested only in finding their daughter and the dangerous killer who tries to stay hidden and low while chaos ensues on the streets of a city that fights for her independence and freedom.
A reviewer welcomes the way Kondor handles history.
"Kondor doesn't only paint a picture and doesn't only repeats what is in the history books: he tries to interpret it, make sense of it and help us understand the relations and dynamics of this hectic era."
Kondor's been publishing short stories since 2009 and a collection will be compiled in late 2012 for publication.
Style and method
Kondor always uses third person narrative that actually is a masked first person narrative since the reader always sees what the protagonist(s) see. Also, his narrator is an historical one that knows only the current time frame of the novel and never steps out of it. Kondor - through the eye of his protagonists - rarely comments on the current political situation but leaves this to his readers. He follows the steps of Charles Willeford in the sense that his characters never "think" they only "act": there are no inner monologues and Kondor never uses the technique or phrase of "he thought", "she thought" and so on since he prefers his characters to be seen and judged by their actions. Kondor prefers to use real life characters which include among many others Leó Vécsey (journalist), Kornél Tábori (journalist), Tibor Ferenczy (police commissioner), Péter Hain (detective), Tibor Wayand (detective), István Bárczy (chief-of-staff), Vilmos Tarján (journalist) and so on. Also, he thoroughly researches everything to invoke the atmosphere of Hungary in the 1930s, 1940s and later on the 1950s.
The rights for the adaptation of the Budapest Noir were sold before the book was published. Currently it's in development with the shooting set for early 2013.
As of August 1, 2012, Budapest Noir has been published by Edizioni e/o in Italy, Payot et Rivages in France, Proszynski i S-ka in Poland, Droemer Knaur in Germany, Mynx in the Netherlands, and HarperCollins in English in January, 2012.
- The official website of Budapest Noir
- János Pelle's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian on hvg.hu
- Péter I. Rácz's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in ÉS
- Krisztina Horeczky's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in Népszabadság
- Krisztián Benyovszky's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in Új Szó in Bratislava
- Gábor Wágner's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in Pesti Műsor
- István M. Szabó's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in Magyar Narancs
- Tibor Bárány's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in Magyar Narancs
- puskar's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian on index.hu
- Janos Horváth's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian on Dark Corners
- Sándor Tóth's review of Budapest Noir in Hungarian in Zsaru Magazin
- All the available reviews on Budapest Noir in English
- Interview with Kondor in Exit in Hungarian