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Michael Crichton, RIP

The death of writer Michael Crichton last week -- from cancer, at age 66 -- was mostly swallowed up by the presidential election. Crichton was best-known for the movies he wrote or directed (Westworld, Jurassic Park, Twister) or that were adapted from his books (Congo, Disclosure). He also enjoys, if that's the word, of writing a novel that was adapted twice into two of the worst science-fiction works in the history of Hollywood, the 1971 film and the 2008 TV miniseries of The Andromeda Strain. The film version came out while I was in college at Stanford, and Crichton attended a campus screening and answered questions afterward. He was so incoherent that some of us actually thought he was an impostor, but he turned out to be the real Crichton (at 6-foot-7, not an easy guy to impersonate) seriously under the influence of something or other. I was sympathetic; I wouldn't have wanted to explain that movie, either.

And even if I weren't, Crichton's 2004 novel State of Fear would have redeemed him in my eyes. As a literary work, its merits were few; like most of his books, the prose was stiff, the characters one-Crichton dimensional. But as a defiant statement of political incorrectness, it may never be topped. Writing a novel that not only says global warming is a hoax but portrays Greenpeace and other save-the-whales martyrs as terrorists and murderers was roughly equivalent to pooping in your seat at Grauman's Chinese Theater as far as Crichton's Hollywood peers were concerned. Small wonder that it hasn't been made into a film, even though it was a best-seller.

I doubt if Crichton cared. Certainly he didn't need the money. Forget all the movies -- his income from the TV show he created, E.R., now in its 15th season, must be phenomenal. The television studios score anything that lasts three years as a solid hit. Who could have imagined, when E.R. went on the air in 1994, that it would outlive its creator?  Sleep well, Michael; you earned it.


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