Remembering Michael Crichton

Written by Lee Harvey

1942 – 2008

Even if you don’t know who Michael Crichton is (or was), chances are you know his work. Hollywood adapted his novels into some of the biggest movies of their time: The Andromeda Strain (1971), The Terminal Man (1974), The Great Train Robbery (1978), Jurassic Park (1993) and, to only name a few, Westworld (1973 – directed by Crichton himself – and made into the recent HBO hit).

And if being a best selling novelist, screenwriter and director wasn’t a prestigious enough resume, Crichton was also a software programmer and medical doctor. Yes, a doctor of medicine. Not the only show business person trained in medicine – George Miller was also a doctor prior to his Mad Max films – but how Crichton came to be one certainly is unique. More bad luck than anything else.

He always wanted to be a writer and enrolled to study literature at Harvard in 1960. But Crichton didn’t get along with one of his professors and suspected his work was deliberately being marked down. Testing his suspicions, Crichton submitted an essay by none other than George Orwell. When the professor returned the piece with subpar marks, Crichton transfered to the science faculty, gaining a bachelor in biological anthropology and, later, as a medical practitioner.

He worked as a doctor while simultaneously making a name for himself as a novelist and gained enough insight to create the TV hit ER, starring George Clooney. In fact, during ER’s debut year it became the number show on US TV, at a time when Crichton also had the best selling novel (Disclosure) and the record breaking box office smash Jurassic Park.

Despite all of this, it is Crichton’s writing that is the most deserving of praise. Most of his books were techno-thrillers, short and fast reads, the male equivalent of romance novels. Yet Crichton managed to fill his cautionary tales with believable characters and social commentary, all the while seamlessly squeezing in enough exposition to make the average person feel like an uneducated piece of shit. Even his non fiction was brilliant, the introduction to his 2002 novel, Prey, remains the scariest thing I have ever read.

Perhaps my favourite thing about Michael Crichton, though, was his reaction to Michael Crowley’s criticism, in which Crichton included a character in his next book by the name of Mick Crowley who served no purpose to the plot and was a pedophile with a small dick. Both Michael Crowley (the real person) and Mick Crowley (the Crichton character) were journalists who graduated from Yale. That’s how you settle an argument, God dammit!

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Thank you for your recollections, State of Fear is my favourite novel of his. I think I read it about a decade ago and was instantly hooked so I have most of his books today. I love the internet partly because I can watch interviews with brilliant men like this and imagine what else could have been had he lived longer. I am also often sad Michael is not around anymore because there are so many second rate self-appointed ‘visionaries’ or ‘thought leaders’ or ‘ideas brokers’ (or ‘creatives’ or whatever bullshit term they decide to use today) who have diddly… Read more »