This was a paperback, probably from the 80s. The cover may have had the exterior view of an office tower (~20 floors) with a man suspended on a rope swinging outside.

The protagonist goes to his company's office in the tower. (The building is pretty deserted, it's either a holiday, or after hours/early morning.) He is in a side room (Snack room? Xerox room? Coffee break area?) when he sees armed men walk past toward his office, talking on the radio, clearly looking for him.

So now he is dodging around up and down to various floors trying to avoid the armed men. He can't call out, (Phone lines are cut) or use the elevator (they have either shut it down or put it in emergency mode where it will only go to the ground floor where they have more men waiting)

Somewhere along the chase he gets rappelling gear (I think from breaking into an Adventure Outfitters Shop office, or taking if from one of the men whom he is able to ambush) and using it to transfer to another floor, by rappelling down the elevator shaft, or the outside of the building. (i.e. they know he is above 16th floor, have men stationed on 15th, so he repels down to 12th to leapfrog past them).

It turns into a Die Hard type situation, with him scrambling around trying to avoid them and/or take them out. (If I recall correctly, except for the team leader, they are not highly trained special forces types, just well trained and armed Security guards.)

Why they are after him:

From overhearing them, or hearing them talk on a radio he got from one of them he ambushed, or by talking with them over the radio he got from one of them, they tell him why they want him.

Apparently a day or two before the story stats, while visiting a research lab in the course of his job, (or visiting a facility that had a secret research lab) he became infected with a deadly virus. I think an animal got lose and either scratched or bit him or more likely got lose and contaminated some object that he later touched. No realizes he was infected until they review the tapes after he has already left.

The virus he has contracted is lethal, has a short incubation period, a highly contagious period, then after the contagious period stops rapidly breaks down your body and you die a few days later. (i.e., 3 days after exposure, you can pass the virus to anyone through contact or fluid exchange (kissing, splatter with blood, spitting, coughing on them) but that phase only last 2-3 days, after that you can not spread the virus, but you're going to be dead in a couple days.

I believe the men after him are the security team from the research lab, who are trying to kill him BEFORE he becomes contagious. But they do NOT want the authorities know know about the situation. (Lab was doing illegal research?)

Ending: If I recall right, he ties up and infects the head security guard who was chasing him, (the others either left, or were defeated) leaves the building, and heads to a isolated cabin he has high up in the mountains to die so he does not infect anyone else. But he does contact the authorities to tell them of the infected guard so they can isolate him, and he is isolating himself to die.) The last page of the book is a typed memo from the (CDC? or the company that created the virus?) that the security guard had died, but it appears the virus is vulnerable to the (cold temperatures? low oxygen pressure? Ultraviolet rays?) that the hero was exposed to in his cabin at 10000 feet and has survived.

  • There are a additional pieces of information that ( understandly you may or may not recall ) but may help in provision of an answer : where is the geogrpahical setting : continent , country , city ? What language was the paperback original written in and if English , Author details Male , Female and where from North America or elsewhere ? elsewhere ? When you refer to " short incubation period is this hours or days ? Your age at the time of reading might help to classify it into YA or Adult as well .
    – schweppz
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 8:11
  • @schweppz In English. Set in the USA, probably in or near a large western city. (small cities don't usably have 20+ story office buildings) and he drove to a high mountain cabin at the end (10,000+ feet). Author sex unknown. The incubation was days as listed in the example. He'd just visited the Facility 1-2 days before (Probably not more than 3 days, and the people wanted him dead or quarantined before the incubation ended and he become contagious.) The chase lasted less than a day (24 hours), and by the end of the day he WAS contagious. Probably in my 20s when read. it was certainly Adult.
    – NJohnny
    Commented Oct 4, 2023 at 9:17
  • So the actual duration of the novel might be only over a matter of days then ?
    – schweppz
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 4:06
  • So summing up the known (certain/probable) data 1. 80's paperback 2. cover art may have tower block suspended man 3.Epidemic infectious pathogenic agent ( virus ) 4.Rapidly fatal haemorrhagic disease -days.5. Protagonist infected in lab ( retrospective vids ) 6.Hence armed guards in lethal pursuit -aim to kill before he is infectious 7.Escape from building - overhears radio conversation, rapells partly down outside building ,captures, restrains & infects chief guard then notifies authorities 8. He escapes to higher ground > 10 000 ft which deactivates virus & he ultimately triumphs.
    – schweppz
    Commented Oct 6, 2023 at 4:48

2 Answers 2


Vertical Run by Joseph R. Garber looks like a possibility.

Synopsis from goodreads.com:

You think YOU had a killer workday. . . Get ready for the FASTEST thriller of the summer! Each morning in his 45th floor executive office, David Elliot savors the quiet moments until the workday begins. Until today, when his boss walks in and aims a gun at him. For the rest of the day, he will be trapped in his midtown office building, and everyone David Elliot meets will try to kill him. He has 24 hours to find out why. . . In "Vertical Run," you can escape into a world on fast forward, a drama that plays out with electrifying intensity. No one who reads this book will ever see the office the same way again.

The Kirkus review mentions chance bite of a monkey, deadly tri-phasic microbes and rappeling down the embattled skyscraper's face on telephone cable.

  • Great find, as always! How did you find it?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 3, 2023 at 20:37
  • Yes!! That is the book! Thanks for finding it. :)
    – NJohnny
    Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 0:29
  • Great! Thank you! I found it in Google Books search for office building thriller books
    – Ayshe
    Commented Nov 4, 2023 at 16:57

Restating what is known to be certain or probable from you question (I am repeating and amplifying from my comment below)

  • 80's paperback
  • cover art may have tower block suspended man
  • Epidemic infectious pathogenic agent (virus)
  • Illness manifest after short incubation (days) and is rapidly fatal haemorrhagic disease over a few days.
  • Protagonist get inadvertently infected in lab (retrospective videos reveal this to be the case to? Lab authorities)
  • Armed guards take on a lethal pursuit and aim to kill before our Protagonist before he is infectious
  • Escape from the building where the company he works for has an office - lab guards lock it down after he enters he overhears a radio conversation by his pursuers re killing him before he becomes infectious He rappels partly down outside building, captures, restrains & infects chief guard then notifies authorities when he leaves the building -He escapes to higher ground > 10 000 ft which deactivates virus & he ultimately triumphs.
  • The language of publication is English and Author probably North American (male or female)
  • The absence of Zombies is a favourable factor - reducing possible titles for searching through.

Possible candidates including but not limited to:

  1. First about the specific point of altitude > 10 000 feet: I can only find only one reference to this with a closely similar story -no virus- but instead, rogue nanotech that is ineffective at causing harm over this altitude Jeff Carlson Plague Year, but publication date is 2007 so at odds with your 1980’s estimate.
  2. Frank G Slaughter: Epidemic! from 1961, so again out of date, but some similar elements of plot, with gangland societal disruption, violence, and conspiracy (communists this time) rapidly progressive pneumonic plague from Pasteurella Pestis (now known as Yersinia Pestis) a bacterium, not virus. Set on a time scale of about 7 seven days with a chapter for each day.
  3. Michael Crichton’s Andromeda Strain 1969 has an extraterrestrial pathogen that does not fit with the known background. Lab pressure set to modify organisms’ growth? (The 10 000 ft altitude element?) Ultimately the strain mutates becoming less virulent.
  4. David R Slavitt (writing as Henry Sutton) Vector 1970, exposure of a small town in Utah, Tarsus, to an airborne viral agent decimating its population and subsequent government attempts at containment and coverup.
  5. Stephen King’s the Stand 1978 is too well known to be confused with anything else let alone forgotten (surely?) super flu virus (named Capatain trips), government deception & post-apocalyptic milieu with population decimation but no altitude element
  6. Robin Cook Outbreak 1987 Dr. Jack Stapleton grapples with a haemorrhagic virus outbreak in the US that is rapidly fatal, conspiracy and malicious agents, but story has a female protagonist & no > 10 000 feet altitude element.
  7. Robert Ludlum (&co writer Gayle Lynds )2000 The Hades Factor Dr. Jon Smith facing deadly viral threat which kills his fiancée, panic, powerful adversaries from within and outside government and the threat of global catastrophe
  8. Tom Clancy Executive Orders 1996 Bioterrorism involving virus Jack Ryan grapples and overcomes
  9. The Last Canadian William C Heine 1974 (Novel also known as Death Wind) John Custance an engineer in a world devastated by pandemic virus with a group of fellow survivors treks to a remote cabin in Newfoundland in the face of threats from other survivors and infection.
  10. Robin Cook Pandemic Dr. Jack Stapleton (again, that tireless protagonist) investigating a lethal respiratory virus with a potential man-made origin and deeper hints a conspiracy with global ramifications while malicious forces attempt to prevent him grasping the truth.
  11. H.G Wells the stolen Bacillus 1890’s (almost 100 years out of date) has little in common with the plot and certainly not a virus but this short story brings a smile to the lips in the face of a frustrating search. A bacteriologist’s white lie emboldens an Anarchist with a comical consequence while fears of a potential epidemic are nipped in the bud.
  • The 10,000 ft was just an example. It may have been 8000, or 12,000, I just recall that he went to die in a remote cabin at high altitude away from other people. Yes the story takes place over the period of a day. (Arrival at office in morning, chase by guards during the day, incapacitating the guards as he avoids them, ending with him infecting the leader, before escaping unopposed at the end of the day, and informing athorities what had happened. Then traveling to a remote cabin to die. There may have been flashbacks of his visit to the lab. and the epilog was weeks later (the CDC memo)
    – NJohnny
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 1:59
  • There was no government involvement, until he informed them at the end. The entire story is him dodging the Guards in an office tower for the whole book trying to piece together why they are looking for him. With the exception of the possible flashbacks, and the epilogue the entire story is set in the building. (aka Bruce Willis in Die Hard movie.) The only people were the protagonist and the guards. (It is possible there were some people in the building, but they were tangently involved, Maybe being escorted out, or questioned about the protagonist before being escorted out)
    – NJohnny
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 2:10
  • Sorry I was off the computer a couple days. None of your suggestions fit. Although I do apricate the effort.
    – NJohnny
    Commented Oct 7, 2023 at 2:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.