November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton, 1942 - 2008.

Time: Michael Crichton
Best-selling author Michael Crichton, who wrote such novels as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park and created the popular TV drama ER, has died at 66, his family said today. Crichton, a medical doctor turned novelist whose books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, died 'unexpectedly' Tuesday in Los Angeles after a private battle with cancer, his family said.


The New York Times' ArtsBeat has the full family statement and reaction from Steven Spielberg. Also: a "Times Topic" collection.

See also: The site and the Wikipedia entry.

Updated through 11/9.

Updates: "He became a filmmaker himself and scored a hit with his first theatrical feature, the delightful Westworld (1973), a pre-Jurassic Park highlighted by Yul Brynner's pre- Terminator android take on his iconic Magnificent Seven gunslinger," writes Robert Cashill. "He brought his medical training to bear on 1978's creepy Coma, improving on Robin Cook's novel, and giving Genevieve Bujold a memorably plucky heroine part. 1979's The Great Train Robbery was a successful switch to period, and a favorite con-man picture of mine, with Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down deft in the leads."

"Crichton was never a literary stylist, but his skills as a storyteller were enormous," writes Lev Grossman for Time. "His oeuvre is among the most-filmed of any author in history. Crichton also had an amazing knack for wringing emotional drama from hard science. His novels plunge fearlessly into arcane scientific realms where lesser writers would fear to tread - nanotechnology in Prey, genetics in Next. He courted controversy ardently: he wrote about sexual harassment in Disclosure and the expanding Japanese economic hegemony in Rising Sun (back in 1992 when that was an edgy topic). Most infamously he attacked the theory of global warming in State of Fear."

"As a writer he was a kind of cyborg, tirelessly turning out novels that were intricately engineered entertainment systems," writes Charles McGrath in the NYT. "No one - except possibly Mr Crichton himself - ever confused them with great literature, but very few readers who started a Crichton novel ever put it down."

Slate runs Bryan Curtis's 2004 assessment of the author.

Updates, 11/6: "Crichton was a paradox in action: a successful crank, a showman with graduate degrees, and a creative force who, when it all clicked, made us high on apocalypse." The Boston Globe's Ty Burr.

"His accomplishments play like a greatest hits compilation in the main mediums - literature, film, television - he worked within," writes Bill Gibron at PopMatters. "But... one fears he will be remembered for his more contentious nature than his artistic accomplishments."

Update, 11/8: Online listening tip. On Point remembers Crichton.

Update, 11/9: "For some fans... grief was tempered by disappointment," writes Dave Itzkoff in the NYT: "To them, the author of State of Fear and Next, Mr Crichton's last published novels, was not the unparalleled prognosticator of The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. What they expected from Mr Crichton was his honoring the unspoken understanding that exists between readers and writers of speculative fiction: the reader will suspend disbelief as long as the writer starts with basic scientific fact before weaving his science fiction. With these last two novels, they concluded that Mr Crichton, in his warnings of perilous futures, had violated the pact."

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Posted by dwhudson at November 5, 2008 12:56 PM


RIP, Mr. Crichton.

Here's a viewing tip: A whole hour with Crichton on Charlie Rose, recorded last year.

Posted by: Karsten at November 5, 2008 1:19 PM

Many thanks, Karsten!

Posted by: David Hudson at November 5, 2008 1:39 PM