VJ Books Blog

(TimesOnline, Nov. 5, Patrick Foster, Media Correspondent)

Michael Crichton, the bestselling author behind the fictional world of Jurassic Park, died today at the age of 66 after a battle with cancer that he hid from the public eye.

Crichton, author of more than a dozen best-selling novels and creator of the medical drama series, ER, died in Los Angeles, a statement from his family, posted on the writer’s website, said.

Describing his fight with cancer as “courageous and private”, the statement said: “While the world knew him as a great storyteller that challenged our preconceived notions about the world around us – and entertained us all while doing so – his family and friends knew Michael Crichton as a devoted husband, loving father and generous friend who inspired each of us to strive to see the wonders of our world through new eyes.

“He did this with a wry sense of humour that those who were privileged to know himpersonally will never forget.”

The son of a journalist, Crichton was born in 1942 in Chicago Illinois, but grew up in New York state.  He graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University before tutoring at Cambridge University in anthropology and later registering at Harvard Medical School.

During his medical training, he began to secretly write novels, writing under a pseudonym, but was eventually outed after A Case of Need, which he wrote using the alias Jeffery Hudson, won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Allan Poe Award, in 1968.

Crichton, whose books have sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, was heavily influenced by his scientific training, and often conjured up visions of dystopian worlds that bore the brunt of botched attempts at scientific advancement.

His first bestseller, The Andromeda Strain, which speculated upon the devastating effects of an extraterrestrial micro-organism infecting the human race, was published while he was still a medical student.

Thirteen of his books were turned into films, including Jurassic Park, which told of recreating dinosaurs via DNA of the beasts contained in blood within preserved mosquitos. The film, directed by Steven Spielberg and released in 1993, took nearly $1 billion worldwide, and in 2002 Crichton had a newly-discovered ankylosaur named for him: Crichtonsaurus bohlini.

On the small screen he was the creator of ER, the American hospital drama in which George Clooney shot to fame. The project was originally set to be a film, also directed by Spielberg, who put it on ice in order to make Jurassic Park. Crichton won an Emmy, a Peabody, and a Writer’s Guild of America Award for the programme.

He also had an interest in computers, and Westworld, another of his films, was the first movie to utilise computer-generated special effects, in 1973. His passion for the technique in film production led to him being awarded Technical Achievement Academy Award in 1995.

Physically a dominant figure, at 6ft 9in, he found an unlikely ally in President Bush, with whom he shared a sceptical view of global warming. His 2004 novel, State of Fear, was condemned by environmentalists, but Crichton maintained that his conclusions were misrepresented.

Crichton had a turbulent lovelife, marrying five times, four of which ended in divorce. His daugher, Taylor, is from his fourth wife, Anne-Marie Martin, with whom he wrote the 1996 film, Twister. At the time of his death, he was married to Sherri Alexander, a 45-year-old actress.

The family statement added: “Through his books, Michael Crichton served as an inspiration to students of all ages, challenged scientists in many fields, and illuminated the mysteries of the world in a way we could all understand.

“He will be profoundly missed by those whose lives he touched, but he leaves behind the greatest gifts of a thirst for knowledge, the desire to understand, and the wisdom to use our minds to better our world.

Crichton’s family said that he would have a private funeral, and requested that their privacy be respected.