Michael Crichton--whose books were made into films including “Jurassic Park” and “The Andromeda Strain”--died Tuesday. He was 66.In addition to his best-known novels, Crichton penned several works of crime fiction under the pseudonym “John Lange.” Two of those books have been republished within the last couple of years by Hard Case Crime--Zero Cool (1969) and Grave Descend (1970)--but his first Lange novel was in fact Odds On (1966).
The author died “after a courageous and private battle against cancer,” according to his Web site. A statement on MichaelCrichton.net said Crichton died “unexpectedly” in Los Angeles.
Crichton was a brand-name author, known for his stories of disaster and systematic breakdown, such as the rampant microbe of “Andromeda” or dinosaurs running amok in “Jurassic Park,” one of his many books that spawned major Hollywood movies.
Crichton also was a screenwriter and filmmaker, earning producing and writing credits for the film versions of many of his titles. He also created the NBC hospital drama “ER” in 1994.
Still, I remember Crichton best for his historical thriller, The Great Train Robbery (1975), which fictionalized--with style, wit, and humor--England’s notorious Great Gold Robbery of 1855. I read that book when it came out in paperback, and was entirely consumed by its story and characters. I’ve re-read it once since, and still find it a marvel of plot development, tension, and historical re-creation. A film was made from the book in 1979, starring Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland, but the novel far outshines its cinematic adaptation. Go find a copy. Right now.
READ MORE: “Michael Crichton Dies at 66,” by Hillel Italie (AP); “R.I.P., Michael Crichton,” by Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind); “Builder of Windup Realms That Thrillingly Run Amok,” by Charles McGrath (The New York Times); “Michael Crichton, R.I.P.,” by Duane Swierczynski (Secret Dead Blog); “Remembering Michael Crichton,” by Michael Berry (San Francisco Chronicle); “The Admirable Mr. Crichton,” by Ali Karim (The Rap Sheet).