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Tuesday, 15 October 2013

The admirable Michael Crichton’s writing teeth

Long before he wrote Jurassic Park, before he created the ground-breaking TV series ER, Michael Crichton was an honours student at Harvard Medical School – and wrote paperback suspense novels on the side, under the top-secret pen name “John Lange.” In effect, Crichton cut his writing teeth on these works, and you can already detect the familiar hallmark Crichton mix of crime and science in these early titles.

Lange wrote eight books between 1966 and 1972… and then vanished. The books became unavailable for decades; pulp collectors would sometimes pay hundreds of dollars for used copies. [His breakout novel was The Andromeda Strain under his own name (1969); then followed The Terminal Man (72), The Great Train Robbery (75), Eaters of the Dead (76), Congo (80), Sphere (87) and Jurassic Park (90) and so on; he became one of those authors whose every book seemed to be turned into a movie.]

Then, forty years after “John Lange” was conceived, Michael Crichton chose Hard Case Crime to bring him back, personally re-editing two of the Lange books, even writing new chapters for one of them (Zero Cool) – all still under the cloak of the Lange identity. This project was interrupted by the author’s unexpected death from cancer in 2008, just months after the second revived Lange novel hit bookstores.

Now Hard Case Crime announces it will bring all of John Lange’s work back into print for the first time in decades – and the first time ever under the Michael Crichton name. Due for release this month (October 2013), featuring gorgeous painted cover art by Gregory Manchess and Glen Orbik, the eight John Lange novels are:

Odds On (1966): The perfect heist, planned by computer, in a luxury hotel off the coast of Spain.

Scratch One (1967): On the French Riviera, a case of mistaken identity could cost an American lawyer his life when a group of international assassins confuse him for the secret agent sent to take them down.

Easy Go (1968): Can an Egyptologist and his band of thieves find a lost tomb buried for centuries in the desert – and get away with its treasure?

Zero Cool (1969): An American doctor vacationing in Europe gets caught between rival criminal gangs who both demand his help to find a legendary gem. [Note the paperback the lady's reading - it's Grave Descend, see below...]

The Venom Business (1970): An expert on venomous snakes and smuggler of rare artefacts accepts an assignment working as a bodyguard to a man everyone wants dead.

Drug of Choice (1970): Bio-engineers at a secret island resort promise pleasures beyond imagination – but what’s the secret behind the strange drug they’ve created?
Grave Descend (1970): A diver in Jamaica, hired to search the wreck of a sunken yacht, uncovers secrets deeper and darker than the waters in which the ship rests.

Binary (1972): A terrorist mastermind and a federal agent wage a battle of wits and of nerve when the villain plots to unleash poison gas on San Diego, killing a million people… including the President of the United States.
“Michael was one of the most imaginative and talented suspense writers who ever lived,” said Hard Case Crime founder and editor Charles Ardai, who worked closely with Crichton on editing the Lange books. “These early novels show his ingenuity and creativity at full blast and they read like a rocket. I defy anyone who picks up one of these books to put it down unfinished.”

The books are also being offered in e-book editions (without the Manchess and Orbik cover art) by Open Road Integrated Media.
About Hard Case Crime
Hard Case Crime has been nominated for or won numerous honours since its inception in 2004, including the Edgar, the Shamus, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Spinetingler Award. Big author names such as Stephen King, Lawrence Block, Donald E. Westlake, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harlan Ellison, James M. Cain, Ken Bruen, John Farris, Robert Silverberg, Robert Bloch, Cornell Woolrich, David Gaddis, Alan Guthrie, and David Dodge rub shoulders with new authors in the ever-growing Hard Case Crime line-up. The series’ books have been adapted for television and film, with two features currently in development at Universal Pictures, a TV pilot based on Max Allan Collins’ Quarry novels in production for Cinemax, and the TV series Haven going into its fourth season this fall on SyFy. Hard Case Crime is published through a collaboration between Winterfall LLC and Titan Publishing Group.

About Titan Publishing Group
Titan Publishing Group is an independently owned publishing company, established in 1981, comprising three divisions: Titan Books, Titan Magazines/Comics and Titan Merchandise. Titan Books, nominated as Independent Publisher of the Year 2011, has a rapidly growing fiction list encompassing original fiction and reissues, primarily in the areas of science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk and crime. Recent crime and thriller acquisitions include Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins’ all-new Mike Hammer novels, the Matt Helm series by Donald Hamilton, and the entire backlist of the Queen of Spy Writers, Helen MacInnes. Titan Books also has an extensive line of media- and pop culture-related non-fiction, graphic novels, and art and music books. The company is based at offices in London, but operates worldwide, with sales and distribution in the U.S. and Canada being handled by Random House.


Pat Dilloway said...

The covers on those are great. I have a couple of Lawrence Block ones they republished that really got me into reading his work.

Nik said...

I agree, Pat. Most of the Hard Case capture the mood of the old pulp paperbacks - striking, colourful, good on the eye.