James Patterson to Complete Michael Crichton Book

From a Wall Street Journal story by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg headlined “James Patterson to Complete Unfinished Michael Crichton Book”:

Author James Patterson says he has always been a fan of the late thriller writer Michael Crichton. Now he is going to finish writing one of Mr. Crichton’s books.

The untitled novel, based on a partially finished manuscript provided by Mr. Crichton’s estate, is expected to be published in 2024 by Little, Brown & Co., an imprint of Lagardère Hachette Book Group.

The publisher is keeping the plot under wraps, other than saying that the book is about a pending eruption of Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, which could endanger a secret cache of chemical weapons and “can destroy not just the island, but the entire world.”

In an unlikely coincidence, the Mauna Loa volcano actually did erupt in late November and only stopped spewing lava earlier this week.

“Michael’s ability to tell a story that is propulsive while you learn things about the subject area he’s writing about is what pulled me in,” Mr. Patterson said in an interview. Mr. Patterson has written such novels as “Along Came a Spider” and “The President is Missing” with co-writer President Bill Clinton. Mr. Crichton’s works included “Jurassic Park” and “Congo.”

The two bestselling authors never met. “I know him through his books,” Mr. Patterson said.

Messrs. Patterson and Crichton are among the country’s most successful authors. Between them, they have sold more than 675 million copies globally in all formats, according to Little, Brown.

“Seeing both their names on the same book cover is going to be amazing,” said literary agent Shane Salerno, who sold the book to Little, Brown.

Mr. Crichton died at age 66 in 2008 from cancer. His widow, Sherri Crichton, serves as chief executive of CrichtonSun LLC, the film and TV production company that oversees Mr. Crichton’s literary estate.

Ms. Crichton said via email that she read the manuscript—which was more than 100 pages long—after her husband died and found it compelling. She then started sifting through his papers, file cabinets and computers for all relevant material, which she said was “spread across many different hard drives and in multiple locations.” She turned it all over to Mr. Patterson.

“Michael had been working on this book for years, it was his passion project and centered in the place that inspired him the most, Hawaii,” Ms. Crichton said. “He had extensive volumes of scientific research, comprehensive notes, outlines with detailed character bios and back stories, even video footage of himself on locations featured throughout the novel, as well as interviews with volcanologists.”

Ms. Crichton declined to say whether there are other complete or partially written manuscripts.

Mr. Salerno compared the partnership between Messrs. Patterson and Crichton to a movie poster for “Raiders of the Lost Ark” that caught his attention when he was 9 years old.

“It read: ‘Indiana Jones—the new hero from the creators of Jaws and Star Wars,’ ” he said. “Even as a kid, I knew that the combination of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas sounded like the biggest thing. This is the same.” Mr. Salerno is also a writer and has a co-writer credit on the coming James Cameron movie “Avatar: The Way of Water.”

Mr. Patterson was represented by Robert Barnett and Deneen Howell of Williams & Connolly LLP.

This isn’t the first time that Ms. Crichton has resurfaced some of Mr. Crichton’s work. In 2016, she said that she found a completed manuscript later published as “Dragon Teeth” in 2017 by HarperCollins Publishers, which like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.

The estates of many late authors, from Robert B. Parker to Vince Flynn, have extended their literary franchises by hiring third-party authors to keep popular characters alive. The challenge, says literary agent Esther Newberg, is maintaining the original author’s voice and writing style.

“The fan base knows if you are getting it wrong,” said Ms. Newberg, who represents the Robert B. Parker estate. “For publishers, it means they have something they know will work at a certain sales level. It’s not guesswork.”

Mr. Crichton’s estate has benefited from such help in the past. Author Richard Preston, for example, completed “Micro,” a manuscript partially finished by Mr. Crichton and published by HarperCollins in 2011.

A second work, “The Andromeda Evolution,” was written by author Daniel H. Wilson in collaboration with Mr. Crichton’s estate and published in 2019, or 50 years after Mr. Crichton’s novel “The Andromeda Strain” established him as a leading technological thriller writer.

“Any time there are legions of loyal fans it’s a challenge to keep your own voice while making everyone happy,” said Mr. Wilson, the author of the technology thriller “Robopocalypse,” in an interview. “You have to modernize the story but honor the past.”

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