Hemlock_Jonathan1 hemlock_jonathan_mv_tes Hemlock_Jonathan2
Full Name: Jonathan Hemlock
Nationality: American
Organization: CII
Occupation Agent

Creator: Trevanian
Time Span: 1972 - 1975


Jonathan Hemlock is an assassin for CII.

He is also a fairly young, aged 36, university professor of art who is very popular with the students, illogically though it may be as he is caustic and unforgiving. He recognizes the irony in the fact that the more he heaps disdain upon them, the more they feel he is one of them deep down and the more they seek his approval, getting even more disdain in the process. He actually cannot stand teaching the classes that he does but it pays the bills and so he does it,

He is good at teaching art because he has an actual passion for art. He is an avid connoisseur of art, spending all of his available money to acquire exotic works of art for his own pleasure.

He once had almost as much passion for mountain climbing and was considered one of the best in that extremely cliquish sport. Time has taken some of the pleasure, and ability, out of him and since its cost collided with his other love, one had to give.

Hemlock has one other vocation that brings in even more money than his teaching; he works for CII, a counter-assassination secret governmental organization run by a bizarre albino named Dragon. Under the direction of this man to whom natural sunlight or any bright light at all is extremely painful, CII performs a highly covert duty that the other intelligence agencies need but do not want to handle. It takes care of sanctions, the euphemism for killing the killers of U.S. agents.

As the series begins, two events collide to cause Hemlock trouble. The first is his decision to resign from CII effective immediately. He has tired of the killing and tired of the danger and feels his art collection is fine the way it is. The second is the murder of a CII agent. Dragon knows that the aggression against his own agency must be punished and for that he wants only the best, namely Hemlock.

Since Hemlock is not interested in the money and Dragon desperately needs Hemlock, the pressure begins.


Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1972
Last Appearance:1973

1 The Eiger Sanction The Eiger Sanction
Written by Trevanian
Copyright: 1972

When the man who trained Jonathan Hemlock is killed on assignment, the head of CII asks Hemlock to step in to avenge the killing, Hemlock declines but is soon extorted into action. The killer, identity unknown, is said to be a member of an expedition to climb the Eiger in the Alps. Hemlock must join the group to find out who the killer is and take him out.
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2 The Loo Sanction The Loo Sanction
Written by Trevanian
Copyright: 1973

Jonathan Hemlock has traveled to England for a vacation from his writing when he is approached by the British Secret Service to assist in finding the maker of several pornographic films involving some of England's top leaders. While he has no desire to get involved, he is left with no choice.
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Number of Movies:1
First Appearance:1975
Last Appearance:1975

1 The Eiger Sanction The Eiger Sanction
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Hal Dresner, Warren Murphy, Rod Whitaker
Actors: Clint Eastwood as Jonathan Hemlock, George Kennedy as Ben Bowman, Vonetta McGee as Jemima Brown, Jack Cassidy as Miles Mellough, Thayer David as Dragon
Released: 1975

Jonathan Hemlock's art collection is stolen by his former employer to force him to take one more sanction, a kill that will force him to attempt a climb of the one mountain he has failed.


Virtually every reference I've read to Trevanian's Hemlock series refers to it as a satire of the spy genre, written with tongue firmly in cheek. Perhaps it is but it is still a very exciting series with lots of adventures and darn good writing.

One problem with a 'satire' is that it usually goes either to an extreme and becomes silly and fairly laughable or it turns out terribly subtle and ends up being just like those being satirized.

On the other hand, sometimes an author can wish to write an adventure novel that is, first and foremost, fun and which doesn't take its genre too seriously. I don't know what Trevanian's deep-seated goals were. I just know he wrote a terrific two-book series about a very enjoyable character.


My Grade: B+


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