Michael Crichton

photo by Jonathan Exley

New from Michael Crichton - State of Fear

Biographical Information:

As you will find in many of his books, Michael Crichton was born in Chicago, in 1942. He went the Harvard Medical School. After graduating, Crichton embarked on a career as a writer and filmmaker. Called "the father of the techno-thriller," his novels include The Andromeda Strain, The Great Train Robbery, Congo, Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and the sequel to Jurassic Park, The Lost World. He has also written four books of nonfiction, including Five Patients, Jasper Johns, and his autobiography, Travels.

His novels have been translated into at least twenty languages. Many have been made into films, including the phenominally successful Jurassic Park. Crichton has directed six films, among them Westworld, Coma, and The Great Train Robbery. Always interested in computers, he once ran a software company, FilmTrack, and made a computer game, Amazon. His film, Westworld, has the distinction of being the first feature film to employ digitized images in 1973.

Michael was a star basketball player in High School (he was 6' 7" in 10th grade) and he graduated from Roslyn High School in 1960. Crichton then decided to go to Harvard University and become a writer. But Harvard proved to be very disheartening for the young writer. His writing style was severely criticized and his grades hovered around a C. At the age of eighteen he decided that it was Harvard, and not he, that was in error. Convinced of this he hesitatingly retyped an essay of George Orwell's and submitted it as his own. The professor did not catch his plagiarism, and gave Orwell a B-. Crichton was convinced that the Harvard English Department was too hard for him.

Crichton then decided to study anthropology. After graduating from Harvard summa cum laude (GPA 3.8-4.0) in 1965, with a major in anthropology, Crichton, now twenty-three, was a visiting lecturer in anthropology at Cambridge University, in England. Crichton also won a Henry Russell Shaw Fellowship and got to travel in Europe and North Africa for a year.

Upon his return to the States, Crichton began training as a doctor. He eventually graduated with his MD from Harvard Medical School in 1969, but never became a licensed practitioner of medicine.

Crichton made it through all the uncomfortable parts of medical school, despite almost passing out every time he had to draw blood, and witnessed many unsettling things during his medical days. Every year of medical school he tried to quit, and each time he was persuaded to give it another try.

Crichton paid his way through medical school by writing thrillers under different names. Under the name John Lange he wrote Odds On, Scratch One, Easy Go, Zero Cool, Venom Business, Grave Descend, and Drug of Choice, all spy thrillers. Another book written during his medical days under the name of Jeffery Hudson, A Case of Need, had many lightly disguised references to people at Harvard, and they were not all complementary. So, Crichton was in trouble when the book won the Edgar Award for the Best Mystery of the Year. He claims that grades at Harvard were given according to people’s informal opinion of the student. Students who wrote, especially one who wrote about the medical profession, were asking for trouble. Despite winning and accepting the award for the novel Crichton was never found out at school.

During Crichton's final year at medical school The Andromeda Strain was published. It was a best-seller and Crichton sold it to Hollywood. Crichton then gained a celebrity status around the hospital that he did not particularly want. Although, it may have helped him get the hospital directors cooperation in researching his first non-fiction publication, Five Patients: The Hospital Explained. For that book Crichton was named the 1970 Medical Writer of the Year by The Association of American Medical Writers.

Crichton then served (1969-70) as a postdoctoral fellow at the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Science in La Jolla, California, before taking up writing full time. Later, Crichton said of his decision: "To quit medicine to become a writer struck most people like quitting the Supreme Court to become a bail bondsman."

His tightly plotted, briskly written stories immerse the reader in the cutting edge of science, technology, and culture. He is meticulous in his research, and he makes excellent use of it. As Time Magazine wrote, "Michael Crichton didn't really have to get the science right to make sure The Lost World would be a bestseller. But he got the science right anyway." His books, Time said, are "suffused with scientific detail that has clearly been lifted from the latest research journals...Crichton knows more than just how to tell a riveting story."

In Crichton's early works most of his books deal with preexisting literary forms. The Andromeda Strain is influenced by H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. Congo plays with Sir Henry Rider Haggard's classic King Solomon's Mines. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein inspired The Terminal Man, and Eaters of the Dead is swayed by Beowulf. Crichton said in an interview with Andrea Chambers of People Weekly, "The challenge is revitalizing the old forms." In most of his recent works though, he challenges his audience to think about topics of concern in our day to day culture. From the Japanese, in Rising Sun, to the topic of a man being sexually harassed in the novel Disclosure.

Besides the Edgar Award for A Case of Need, Crichton also won the Mystery Writer's of America Edgar Award in 1980 for The Great Train Robbery. Crichton was the visiting writer at MIT in 1988 and his novels have been translated into twenty-four languages.

Crichton has also directed seven movies, including Westworld, Coma, and The Great Train Robbery. In 1972 two of Crichton’s books were made into films. One, called Dealing (or, The Boston to Berkeley Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues), was co-written with his brother Douglas and made into the movie Dealing. A Case of Need was released in film as The Carey Treatment. After watching the filming of these two movies, Crichton decided to try his hand at directing. He sold a new book, Binary, to movie makers and insisted he be allowed to direct the made-for-television movie. It broadcast in 1972 as Pursuit. Other books of his that have been made into movies include The Andromeda Strain, Congo, Disclosure, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and Rising Sun. He has also written many screenplays, including the hit Twister, which was co-written by his wife.

Crichton is also the Creator and Executive Producer of the television series ER, which he actually created right after his medical days. In 1995, ER won eight emmys and Crichton himself received an award from the Producers Guild of America in the category of outstanding multi-episodic series. Later that year, he also was honored with the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for ER.

Crichton is a computer expert who wrote one of the first books about information technology (Electronic Life, 1983). Crichton once indulged his interest in computers by operating a software company, FilmTrack, which has been used by major studios to perform budgeting and scheduling functions for film and television projects. He also created a computer game called Amazon in 1982. His 1973 film Westworld was one of the first feature films to use digitized images. In 1994, Crichton also won an Oscar for Technical Achievement (Scientific and Technical Award).

Crichton is also a collector of modern art and an accomplished traveler. In fact, he has written a non-fiction biography of Jasper Johns, a contemporary artist, and a partial auto-biography, called Travels, about his many travels across the globe, which include trips to Bangkok, Malaysia, Pakistan, Kilimanjaro, Jamaica, and New Guinea. Crichton has also had many experiences in the "psychic" and "spirital" realms and has also done such "mystic" things as seeing auras, spoon bending, and an exorcism.

For an in depth account of Crichton's life you will want to read Travels.

To get information on other authors, try out The Internet University.

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