Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pirate Latitudes -- Michael Crichton

The story is that this novel was found in Michael Crichton's computer files after the author's death. No one knows when it was written or why Crichton chose not to publish it.

My guess on the first half of that sentence is that the book is certainly not from the early period when Crichton was writing as John Lange. It seems to me to come from the time when he wrote books like EATERS OF THE DEAD and CONGO.


I don't have a guess as to why Crichton didn't publish it, but I do think he'd have done considerable revision had he chosen to market it himself. For one thing, he'd have developed the characters. While he wasn't known for character-driven fiction, there are just too many missed opportunities in Pirate Latitudes. Even Charles Hunter, the main character, is little more than a cipher. Sure he's a ruthless killer, but how did he get that way, considering that he's a Harvard man? I think Crichton would have let us know more. The supporting characters get even shorter shrift. And then there's the
almost offhand dispatching of one of the major villains, but there's plenty more.

As for the plot, well, it's just one damned thing after another. Episodic? Sure. Crichton throws in every single thing he could think of. The assault on the impregnable fortress with the hand-picked team? Check. Hurricane? Check. Hot-blooded aristocratic captive (the Maureen O'Hara role)? Check. Sea battles? Check. Traitorous crewman? Check. Sea monster? Check. Prison break? Check. And the list goes on. You've seen every one of these things in movies before, and I'm sure the book will make an entertaining movie itself. Not an original bone in it, but still fun.

But why quibble? The book's sitting on the bestseller list right now. If I could get my first drafts there, I'd be one happy guy. Okay, let's face it, if I could get my fifth drafts there, I'd be one happy guy. Check it out.

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