In appreciation of Michael Crichton

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"Michael Crichton may puzzle or annoy in his occasional lapses in taste, but he cannot be dismissed. Serious questions and important issues often lurk beneath what can seem to be a slick commercial surface," wrote Lorraine Hirsch in a 1981 Monitor interview with author, film producer, film director, medical doctor, and television producer Michael Crichton in 1981. The words continued to ring true throughout the rest of Crichton's career.

Crichton's death today at the age of 66 leaves millions of fans in mourning. Crichton is known worldwide for his science fiction and techno-thriller novels, films, and television programs. His books – which include "The Andromeda Strain," (1969) "Congo," (1980) and "Jurassic Park" (1990) – have sold over 150 million copies worldwide.

Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942. He attended Harvard as an undergraduate and also graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1969. It was while he was in medical school that he began writing novels, publishing two under assumed names.

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His big success, however, came in 1969 with the publication of "The Andromeda Strain," a thriller in which a team of scientists investigate a deadly extraterrestrial microorganism.

Crichton often wrote about technology and its failures. It was a theme he puzzled on throughout his life. In 1980 he told Hirsch, "It's amazing that, among all the lessons of the Vietnam war, we didn't have our faith in technology challenged. Here we were, the greatest technological nation on earth , and we marched into a little jungle nation – and lost! Obviously, technology doesn't have all the answers."

He also told Hirsch, "I am not a science fiction writer. My books are all set in the past and they are all about actual possibilities. I don't write about fantasies. I write about near-reality."

Crichton was very tall – 6' 7". Hirsch wrote that in meeting him in person he had "the most patient, shy curiosity of a giraffe."

Crichton married five times in his life, but on the day that Hirsch met with him in 1980 he was single. She asked him at the end of the interview what would make him happiest in life.

"To get married again," he told Hirsch. She wrote, "His response is as quick as it is soft. 'I'd like to get married again and have children and live like a normal person,' he continues. 'I can't explain it. It's like being hungry for a certain food. I'd like to be like the wild gorillas in 'Congo,'  sitting back and watching my children play in the sunshine.' "

Crichton got his wish.  He and his fourth wife Anne-Marie Martin had a daughter named Taylor Anne in 1989.

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