Michael Crichton - Writer

Michael Crichton, 1994. Photo by Annie Lebowitz.

Spotlight on Michael Crichton’s Writing Career

The Andromeda Strain was the first book Crichton wrote under his own name and he has continued to dominate bestseller lists worldwide ever since. Michael Crichton’s restless imagination and captivating narratives animate his work, making his readers perpetually curious and wanting more.  His compelling storytelling spreads throughout various mediums including novels, non-fiction books, screenplays, essays, speeches and much more.  Michael Crichton’s perspectives on the mysteries of medical technology, genetic engineering, chaos theory, and computer science, continues to transfix readers. Having sold over 200 million books, Michael Crichton is one of the most prolific writers of the last two centuries, and a brand name.

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsI just sit down and write. Usually there’s a point about halfway through where you have to say, ‘Okay, this is good so far. How does it turn out?’ I must carry an idea somewhere in my head, but I’m not aware of it until later on in the project.

 

Michael Crichton Signature

I don’t know why I do what I do and I try not to analyze it too much. Generally I am aware of trying to do one of two things. Either I am trying to solve a problem of narrative (for example, how could you make people believe in dinosaurs, at least for a few hours?) Or, I am trying to understand a problem in the real world (what’s the relationship between aggressor and victim in sexual harassment?) And out of that effort may come a book, or a screenplay.

Novels

Michael Crichton - 1994

Michael Crichton, USA Weekend magazine, 1994.

The Andromeda Strain by Michael CrichtonThe United States government is given a warning by the pre-eminent biophysicists in the country: current sterilization procedures applied to returning space probes may be inadequate to guarantee uncontaminated re-entry to the atmosphere.Two years later, seventeen satellites are sent into the outer fringes of space to “collect organisms and dust for study.” One of them falls to earth, landing ina desolate area of Arizona.Twelve miles from the landing site, in the town of Piedmont, a shocking discovery is made: the streets are littered with the dead bodies of the town’s inhabitants, as if they dropped dead in their tracks.The terror has begun . . .

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The Terminal Man by Michael CrichtonWhen a probe satellite falls to the earth two years later, and lands in a desolate area of northeastern Arizona, the bodies that lie heaped and flung across the ground, have faces locked in frozen surprise. The terror has begun….

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The Great Train Robbery by Michael CrichtonIn teeming Victorian London, where lavish wealth and appalling poverty live side by side, Edward Pierce charms the most prominent of the well-to-do as he cunningly orchestrates the crime of the century. Who would suspect that a gentleman of breeding could mastermind the daring theft of a fortune in gold? Who could predict the consequences of making the extraordinary robbery aboard the pride of England’s industrial era, the mighty steam locomotive? Based on fact, as lively as legend, and studded with all the suspense and style of a modern fiction master, here is a classic caper novel set a decade before the age of dynamite–yet nonetheless explosive….

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Eaters of the DeadIt is 922 A.D. The refined Arab courtier Ibn Fadlan is accompanying a party of Viking warriors back to their home. He is appalled by their customs—the gratuitous sexuality of their women, their disregard for cleanliness, and their cold-blooded sacrifices. As they enter the frozen, forbidden landscape of the North—where the day’s length does not equal the night’s, where after sunset the sky burns in streaks of color—Fadlan soon discovers that he has been unwillingly enlisted to combat the terrors in the night that come to slaughter the Vikings, the monsters of the mist that devour human flesh. But just how he will do it, Fadlan has no idea.

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Congo by Michael CrichtonDeep in the African rain forest, near the ruins of the Lost City of Zinj, a field expedition is brutally killed. At the Houston-based Earth Resources Technology Services, Inc., a horrified supervisor watches a gruesome video transmission of that ill-fated group and sees a haunting, grainy, man-like blur moving amongst the bodies. In San Francisco, an extraordinary gorilla named Amy, who has a 620-sign vocabulary, may hold the secret to that fierce carnage. Immediately, a new expedition is sent to the Congo with Amy in tow, descending into a secret, forbidden world where the only escape may be through the grisliest death.

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Sphere by Michael CrichtonIn the middle of the South Pacific, a thousand feet below the surface, a huge vessel is unearthed. Rushed to the scene is a team of American scientists who descend together into the depths to investigate the astonishing discovery. What they find defies their imaginations and mocks their attempts at logical explanation. It is a spaceship, but apparently it is undamaged by its fall from the sky. And, most startling, it appears to be at least three hundred years old, containing a terrifying and destructive force that must be controlled at all costs.

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Jurassic Park by Michael CrichtonAn astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.Until something goes wrong. . . .

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Rising Sun by Michael CrichtonOn the forty-fifth floor of the Nakamoto tower in downtown Los Angeles—the new American headquarters of the immense Japanese conglomerate—a grand opening celebration is in full swing.On the forty-sixth floor, in an empty conference room, the corpse of a beautiful young woman is discovered.The investigation immediately becomes a headlong chase through a twisting maze of industrial intrigue, a no-holds-barred conflict in which control of a vital American technology is the fiercely coveted prize—and in which the Japanese saying “Business is war” takes on a terrifying reality.

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Disclosure by Michael CrichtonAn up-and-coming executive at the computer firm DigiCom, Tom Sanders is a man whose corporate future is certain. But after a closed-door meeting with his new boss—a woman who is his former lover and has been promoted to the position he expected to have—Sanders finds himself caught in a nightmarish web of deceit in which he is branded the villain.As Sanders scrambles to defend himself, he uncovers an electronic trail into the company’s secrets—and begins to grasp that a cynical and manipulative scheme has been devised to bring him down.

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The Lost World by Michael CrichtonIt is now six years since the secret disaster at Jurassic Park, six years since the extraordinary dream of science and imagination came to a crashing end—the dinosaurs destroyed, the park dismantled, and the island indefinitely closed to the public.There are rumors that something has survived. . . .

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Airframe by Michael CrichtonAt a moment when the issue of safety and death in the skies is paramount in the public mind, a lethal midair disaster aboard a commercial twin-jet airliner flying from Hong Kong to Denver triggers a pressured and frantic investigation in which the greatest casualty may be the truth.

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Timeline by Michael CrichtonIn an Arizona desert, a man wanders in a daze, speaking words that make no sense. Within twenty-four hours he is dead, his body swiftly cremated by his only known associates. Halfway around the world, archaeologists make a shocking discovery at a medieval site. Suddenly they are swept off to the headquarters of a secretive multinational corporation that has developed an astounding technology. Now this group is about to get a chance not to study the past but to enter it. And with history opened up to the present, the dead awakened to the living, these men and women will soon find themselves fighting for their very survival—six hundred years ago.

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Prey by Michael CrichtonDeep in the Nevada desert, the Xymos Corporation has built a state-of-the-art fabrication plant, surrounded by miles and miles of nothing but cactus and coyotes. Eight people are trapped. A self-replicating swarm of predatory molecules is rapidly evolving outside the plant. Massed together, the molecules form an intelligent organism that is anything but benign. More powerful by the hour, it has targeted the eight scientists as prey. They must stop the swarm before it is too late…

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State of Fear by Michael CrichtonWhen a group of eco-terrorists engage in a global conspiracy to generate weather-related natural disasters, its up to environmental lawyer Peter Evans and his team to uncover the subterfuge.

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NEXT by Michael CrichtonFrom Michael Crichton, the #1 bestselling author of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, comes an astounding, eye-opening look at the world of genetics: Next.Is a loved one missing some body parts? Are blondes becoming extinct? Is everyone at your dinner table of the same species? Humans and chimpanzees differ in only 400 genes; is that why a chimp fetus resembles a human being? And should that worry us? There’s a new genetic cure for drug addiction—is it worse than the disease?Devilishly clever, Next blends fact and fiction into a breathless tale of a new world where nothing is what it seems, and genetic ownership shatters our assumptions.

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Pirate Latitudes by Michael CrichtonThe Caribbean, 1665. A remote colony of the English Crown, the island of Jamaica holds out against the vast supremacy of the Spanish empire. Port Royal, its capital, is a cutthroat town of taverns, grog shops, and bawdy houses. In this steamy climate there’s a living to be made, a living that can end swiftly by disease—or by dagger. For Captain Charles Hunter, gold in Spanish hands is gold for the taking, and the law of the land rests with those ruthless enough to make it.Pirate Latitudes is Michael Crichton at his best: a rollicking adventure tale pulsing with relentless action, crackling atmosphere, and heart-pounding suspense.

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Micro by Michael CrichtonIn the vein of Jurassic Park, this high-concept thriller follows a group of graduate students lured to Hawaii to work for a mysterious biotech company—only to find themselves cast out into the rain forest, with nothing but their scientific expertise and wits to protect them.An instant classic, Micro pits nature against technology in vintage Michael Crichton fashion. Completed by visionary science writer Richard Preston, this boundary-pushing thriller melds scientific fact with pulse-pounding fiction to create yet another masterpiece of sophisticated, cutting-edge entertainment.

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In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own Words[On where he gets his ideas for novels.] I wish I knew. They just seem to come from nowhere. But often I think people put too much emphasis on the “idea” behind a story, anyway. First of all, there isn’t just one idea in a story, there are lots of ideas. And second, an idea by itself isn’t worth much until you do the work necessary to get it down on paper. And in the course of doing the writing, the idea often changes. It’s similar to the difference between having an idea for a building, and actually constructing the building. The building often turns out differently from the original plan or intention.

Non-Fiction

Five Patients by Michael CrichtonIn this incisive, detailed survey of five patients, famous thriller author and doctor Michael Crichton explores the dramatic workings of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston’s oldest and most prestigious.This readable account covers not only the history of the hospital’s place in society, but also the actual minute-to-minute functions of Mass General, where health professionals wage their daily battle against disease and death. Crichton’s insightful look at the changes in medicine and surgery caused by technological strides of recent years makes for amazing reading.

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Jasper Johns by Michael CrichtonThis extraordinary book pairs two major talents of our time, the painter/sculptor/printmaker Jasper Johns and the physician/novelist/filmmaker Michael Crichton. Since it first appeared in 1977, Michael Crichton’s Jasper Johns has been considered the preeminent study of one of America’s foremost living artists.

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cover-life-smElectronic Life was created as a layman’s guide to computers. It explained simply, concisely and without jargon what computers really are, how to choose them, how to use them, how to think about them, how to live with them, how to get them to help you, how to keep them in their place, how to enjoy the, It described step-by-step instructions on what to do when you first approach a new computer to sound advice on how to stop your computer from causing trouble in the family. His message: Don’t be afraid of them, they’re only machines, they’re here to make your life easier, and, what’s more, they can be a lot of fun.

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Travels by Michael CrichtonFueled by a powerful curiosity—and by a need to see, feel, and hear, firsthand and close-up—Michael Crichton’s journeys have carried him into worlds diverse and compelling—swimming with mud sharks in Tahiti, tracking wild animals through the jungle of Rwanda. This is a record of those travels—an exhilarating quest across the familiar and exotic frontiers of the outer world, a determined odyssey into the unfathomable, spiritual depths of the inner world. It is an adventure of risk and rejuvenation, terror and wonder, as exciting as Michael Crichton’s many masterful and widely heralded works of fiction.

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In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own Words[On the process of choosing the next project] That early decision: Will it be this or that? And if it’s that, how exactly will it be? Then at a certain point, when doing focused research and it begins to come together, I start to get quite excited. Of course, it’s still just ideas, so it’s quite wonderful. It has no concrete form to be disappointing yet. The first sixty pages are very exciting. It’s this wonderful future ahead—I just can’t wait. Eventually, it starts to be another book.

Written Under a Pseudonym

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsI had been writing to pay my way through medical school. I wrote paperback thrillers on vacations and weekends at a furious pace because the bills were due. I wrote under pseudonyms. In retrospect, it was wonderful training. Most of the problems beginning writers have—dealing with their egos, deciding if what they’re writing is good enough for them—didn’t effect me at all. No one knew I was doing it. It wasn’t under my own name. It was purely to make money to pay for my education. I wasn’t trying to be innovative. I was trying to do something that would be seen and not require rewrites or discussions, because I didn’t have time. I mean I just had to write it, it had to be bought and published, and I had to get the money and go back to my classes.

Michael Crichton wrote novels to help support himself while attending Harvard Medical School. He found he could write a book in a week and then sell them for $2,500 each.

Odds On by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

The plan: to rob the Reina, a super-luxury hotel off the coast of Spain. The crew: three seasoned criminals with the skills to pull off the heist of the century. The edge: the scheme has been simulated in a computer, down to the last variable.The complication: three beautiful women with agendas of their own – and the sort of variables no computer can fathom…

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Scratch One by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

To prevent an arms shipment from reaching the Middle East a terrorist group has been carrying out targeted assassinations in Egypt…Portugal…Denmark…France. In response, the United States sends one of its deadliest agents to take the killers down.But when the agent is delayed in transit, lawyer Roger Carr gets mistaken for him. Now, with some of the world’s deadliest men after him, will he survive long enough to prove his identity?

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Easy Go by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

Beneath the sands of the Egyptian desert lies treasure beyond imagining. And when a professor of archaeology finds clues to the location of a Pharaoh’s lost tomb in ancient hieroglyphs, he hatches a plan to find the burial site – and plunder it.But can a five-man team of smugglers and thieves uncover what the centuries have hidden? And even if they find it, can they escape with it…and with their lives?

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A Case of Need by Michael CrichtonWritten as Jeffery Hudson

In the tightly knit world of Boston medicine, the Randall family reigns supreme. When heart surgeon J. D. Randall’s teenage daughter dies during a botched abortion, the medical community threatens to explode. Was it malpractice? A violation of the Hippocratic Oath? Or was Karen Randall murdered in cold blood?The natural suspect is Arthur Lee, a brilliant surgeon and known abortionist, who has been carrying out the illegal procedure with the help of pathologist John Berry. After Karen dies, Lee is thrown in jail on a murder charge, and only Berry can prove his friend wasn’t the one who wielded the scalpel. Behind this gruesome death, Berry will uncover a secret that would shock even the most hardened pathologist.

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The Venom Business by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

Charles Raynaud feels at home in the jungle. A snake trapper, he makes a tidy profit selling poisonous creatures to the zoos of Europe, but it isn’t just the snake trade that pays his bills. Raynaud is the finest artifact smuggler the world has ever known, and his particular talents are about to be put to the test.Between jobs in Paris, Raynaud meets an old drinking buddy. One of London’s wealthiest, nastiest men, Richard Pierce has eyes on his late father’s fortune and wants Raynaud to act as his bodyguard until he acquires it. But after the first attempts on Pierce’s life, Raynaud begins to smell a rat. Has he been hired as a bodyguard, or a target?

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Zero Cool by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

Peter Ross just wanted a vacation. After years toiling in the radiology department of a large American hospital, he dreams of lying on a Spanish beach with a beautiful girl. The beach proves just as lovely as he hoped. But the girl turns out to be trouble.Angela Locke is on the run from a pair of gangs waging war over a missing artifact, and she sucks Ross straight into the crossfire. From sunny Spain to rain-swept Paris, Ross’s trip will take him into Europe’s darkest corners. An ordinary man on the run for his life, he must uncover a centuries-old secret, or risk becoming its next victim.

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Dealing by Michael CrichtonWritten as Michael Douglas

The suitcase looks like a standard weekend bag. But like the man who carries it, it isn’t what it seems. Lined with tinfoil to mask the smell, it is a smuggler’s bag and will soon be filled to the brim with marijuana bricks.The smuggler is a Harvard student who has come to California to make his fortune. He hopes to score not just with his connection but with his new girlfriend, a Golden State beauty with an appetite for fine weed. When the deal goes south, she takes the fall, and a crooked FBI agent swipes half the stash. To free his girl, this pothead will have to make the deal of a lifetime.

Visit our DEALING: OR THE BERKLEY TO BOSTON FORTY-BRICK LOST BAG BLUES Book Page.

Drug of Choice by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

When a Hell’s Angel is thrown from his bike at 110 miles per hour, he should probably end up in the morgue. But this Angel survives his crash without a scratch, and ends up sleeping peacefully in the hospital. When Dr. Roger Clark inspects him, he finds only one defect: blue urine. Similar reports start to trickle in from hospitals upstate. It seems that a strange new drug is sending people into comas, and only Clark can unravel its mystery.His search for answers takes him on the strangest trip of his life, into a place called “Eden,” which looks like paradise, but feels like hell.

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Grave Descend by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

The Grave Descend lies under more than sixty feet of clear blue Caribbean water, guarded by a coral reef and schools of hungry hammerhead sharks. Raising it would be a near-impossible task, but James McGregor is suited to the impossible. An expert diver, he makes his living exploring sunken ships. But there’s something strange about the wreck of the Grave Descend.How did she sink? Why do none of the survivors tell the same story? And what was the cargo inside her hull? To answer these questions, McGregor will have to contend with the deadliest sharks around—both underwater and on land.

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Binary by Michael CrichtonWritten as John Lange

John Graves is a State Department intelligence agent who made his name on the front lines of the Cold War. Since then, he’s been transferred to domestic work, and his love for the job has withered away. All that sustains him is the hunt for John Wright—a crazed millionaire who is about to unleash the greatest domestic threat Graves’s agency has ever faced.When seven mobsters rob a U.S. Army train in the middle of the Utah desert and make off with half a ton of the deadliest nerve gas known to man, Graves believes that Wright is involved. His plan: to detonate the weapon in San Diego during the Republican National Convention—an attack that would kill more than one million Americans, including the president. Stopping Wright will take more than police work. It is a chess match between agent and madman, and for Graves, checkmate is not an option.

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Published Screenplays

Originally Published by Bantam BooksNo longer in print

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Originally published by Ballantine Books
Co-wrote with Anne-Marie Martin

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Westworld - Published Screenplay

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsThe ways that technology interests me are the ways that it traps you. Westworld is a personification of that situation; it’s about a person pursued by a machine. In a human situation you can always call up your friend the next day and say you didn’t mean it. But you can’t call up technology, you often can’t change your mind. Once you set out on a given course, you can’t reverse.

Essays

In His Own Words

Michael Crichton - In His Own WordsIf you want to write, write! Writing is one of the things you can do without a lot of money or expensive equipment, and it is a very peculiar life style, not suited for everybody, so you might as well get started and see if you like it.

Originally Published in New York Timesin February 2007

Read PATENTING LIFE

Originally published in The Wall Street Journalin December 2006Do patients retain any rights over their own tissues donated for research? At the moment, the answer is no.Read BODYSNATCHERS 2006
Originally published in The New York Timesin March 2006The absurdity of some current patents, especially gene patents.Read THIS ESSAY BREAKS THE LAW
Originally published in Redbook Magazinein May 1991A brief essay.

Read HAPPINESS

Originally published in Playboy Magazinein December 1991Playboy asked for an essay on how to argue in a relationship, how to fight fair.

Read HOW TO FIGHT

Originally published in Playboy Magazinein February 1989The 1980s were tough times for men. This essay examined men’s feelings in a new era of sexual relations.

Read MEN’S HEARTS

Originally published in Popular Mechanics Magazinein 1988The future of man in space, as anticipated by NASA on the eve of the resumption of space shuttle flights. Full discussion of the difficulties that might prevent us from going to Mars was deleted by the editors.

Read AMERICA BEYOND (AFTER THE CHALLENGER DISASTER)

Originally published in Redbook Magazinein February 1988This Valentine’s Day essay brought more reader mail than anything the magazine printed in a year.

Read LOVE IS …

Originally published in Playboy Magazinein January 1988This essay aroused intense controversy for hinting that AIDS was not a disease to which everyone was equally susceptible. That was forbidden to say in the eighties, and has remained so until very recently. (A Los Angeles ad campaign in 2007 suggesting gays “own” the disease brought renewed criticism.)

Read PANIC IN THE SHEETS (DATING IN THE AGE OF AIDS)

Originally published a version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World

Read INTRODUCTION TO ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE’S THE LOST WORLD