Monday, October 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Michael Crichton!

The Writer's Almanac from American Public Media: "It's the birthday of Michael Crichton, (books by this author) born in Chicago (1942). He decided to pursue writing at Harvard, but his writing style was continually criticized by his teachers and he earned a C average. He decided it was the school, not he, that was in error. So for the next assignment, he retyped an essay by George Orwell and submitted it as his own. The professor did not catch his plagiarism, and gave Crichton a B minus. Crichton decided to change his major to anthropology.

To pay for his medical studies, he began writing paperback adventure novels under the pseudonym John Lang. On top of his schoolwork, he managed to produce 10,000 words a day, ultimately publishing eight novels with titles such as Zero Cool (1969), The Venom Business (1969), and Drug of Choice (1970). Just one year out of medical school he published the novel that made his name: The Andromeda Strain (1969), about scientists racing to stop the spread of a deadly new bacteria introduced to Earth from outer space.

Crichton went on to become the author of many best-selling thriller novels, but he also directed several films, and created the popular TV show ER about the daily lives of hospital emergency room employees. He's one of the rare popular writers who's never settled down to one genre. Most of his books touch on science, including Jurassic Park (1990), about dinosaurs brought to life through genetic engineering. But he's also written about Vikings and Japanese businessmen, sexual harassment, and nanotechnology."

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