The Anderson Tapes was the debut crime fiction novel by Lawrence Sanders, published back in 1970. The story is about the complicated burglary of an upscale New York apartment building by a gang of ex-convicts, unaware that the operation is under wiretap and camera surveillance by various agencies. The same year, the book was produced into a film, with Sean Connery as career criminal, Duke Anderson. John “Duke” Anderson is released from prison, returns to his ex-girlfriend (Dyan Cannon in the movie). Duke plots to rob every tenant in the building in one big, takeover heist, and hires a gang. What Duke and the gang don’t realize is that the building is under heavy surveillance from various agencies.
Written and mounted as a film in the late 60s and polished in the early 70s decade, the underlining theme, especially through the movie was the AMAZING surveillance technology of that primitive day, haunting Duke’s plans. To this end, Variety once wrote, “Overriding the machinations of the plot are the Anderson tapes themselves. Lawrence Sanders’ novel was composed of snippets of surreptitious recordings compiled by local police, FBI agents, private investigators, treasury spies, etc., all snooping on the activities for various reasons, and all unable to piece together what they’re overhearing.
For me as a reader and viewer back then, the whole surveillance undercurrent was almost science fiction of the day and a re-watch, re-read of the story today is enjoyable (and frightening) now on the grounds of how much such tech has advanced since the 60s and 70s. The Anderson Tapes book earned Sanders the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for best first mystery novel. Of note, this story also introduced NYPD police detective Edward X. Delaney (played then by Ralph Meeker) who then re-emerged to became Sanders’ hero in his Deadly Sin novels. Later in 1980, Frank Sinatra, who missed his chance to play Dirty Harry years earlier, stepped in as NYPD Delaney in the First Deadly Sin.
Sean Connery seemed to have an interest in caper-crime films as the “bad guy,” making movies like the “Family Business,” “Entrapment,” and “The Great Train Robbery.” Connery was reported by family and friends to greatly distrust banks in his lifetime and at one point hid his “James Bond” money elsewhere…even in his mattress. A spot Duke Anderson should not ignore in his burglary capers!