Three years ago, the sun of 4th November 2008 brought with it the unwelcome news of yet another author’s demise. This time it was John Michael Crichton – the one time anthropology Professor and author of enlightening and thought provoking novel-turned-films such as Jurassic Park (1993) and The Andromeda Strain (1971). He also wrote under the pseudonyms of John Lange, Jeffery Hudson and Michael Douglas. The last pseudonym was adopted while teaming up with his brother Douglas Crichton to write ‘Dealing…’ (1970).
Born in Chicago on 23rd October 1942, Crichton had a long and fulfilling life. His early leanings were invariably towards English literature even though he abandoned the course it due to disillusionment in the teaching methodology. A stint at HarvardMedicalSchool went the same way. However, till then he had found his forte – films. Westworld (1973) gave him the break he needed and then on, he and his writing flourished.
The popular television series ‘ER’ was his 1970 brainchild called Emergency Ward initially but Steven Spielberg got far more interested in converting Jurassic Park into a film. During the shooting for the latter ‘ER’ also found a solid footing in television.
His writings were kaleidoscopic, each new design permeated with the theme of either technological dangers or medical complications. Mystery novels, his first calling, interspersed the others at intervals. Critics have speculated on the overly dramatic nature of his novels yet none has anything but admiration for his lucid style of writing combined with wry humour and effortless manner of communicating complex scientific phenomena to his readers. He researched his material extensively and brought to life well rounded characters, be it the 10th century Muslim in Eaters of the Dead (1976) or the psychologist in Sphere (1987).
On a personal level, his life was nothing short of tumultuous. Apart from the educational ups and downs his five times married and four times divorced status added to his emotional baggage. Believing in the occult, he had his own person exorcised in 1986, the year before his fourth marriage.
As complex and fast paced as his novels, Crichton is a difficult person to analyse in a few lines. As he brilliantly though in a rather sordid way, put it in the first line of his autobiography: “It’s not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw.” Poignant, if the head in question is teeming with questions that each have more than one answer… The head of Michael Crichton.