VJ Books Blog

HarperCollins will publish new Michael Crichton novels, The New York Times announced yesterday. Crichton, famously known as the creator of the television series ER and the author of Jurassic Park died last November of cancer. This has not stopped HarperCollins from scheduling a publication date — November 24 — for his new novel, called Pirate Latitudes. Crichton’s assistant found the adventure tale among the author’s computer files. Crichton joins a long list of writers to have their works published posthumously, like Daniel Pearl, John Howard Griffin and Toni Cade Bambara.

Crichton’s assistant also found a half-completed technological thriller among the computer files. HarperCollins, in tandem with Crichton’s estate, plans to select a co-writer to finish the thriller from Crichton’s notes. It is not uncommon for the show to go on when a popular author dies suddenly.  David Stevens finished Queen fter Alex Haley’s death of a heart attack in 1992. John Callahan worked with Ralph Ellison’s estate to complete Junteenth from what was left after a 1967 fire destroyed most of the original manuscript.

According to Motoko Rich’s New York Times article, the prolific Crichton left numerous electronic files that could be plumbed for literary treasure. However, there are no plans to franchise Crichton’s name – one trend enabling authors long gone from the earth to still publish. The most evident example of this practice is Eric Van Lustbader stepping into the rather large shoes of Robert Ludlum to continue the Jason Bourne saga. Andrew Neiderman became  V.C. Andrews after the author’s death in 1986. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s birth last May, Penguin released Devil May Care, with British author Sebastian Faulks writing as Fleming.

Given lucrative nature of the Crichton brand, there is a strong likelihood that more novels bearing his name will grace bookshelves. This publishing trend may propel the author into that pantheon of artists like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennon, who, according to Forbes’ Top Earning Dead Celebrities, continue to enrich their estates decades after they are gone.

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(examiner.com, Apr 6, Wendy Coakley-Thompson)