Friday, October 31, 2014

Notes For October 31st, 2014

Happy Halloween

I'd like to wish all of you who celebrate it a happy and safe Halloween. As part of the celebration, I recommend reading the classic horror stories of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Washington Irving, and Guy de Maupassant!

This Day In Writing History

On October 31st, 1892, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the classic short story collection by the legendary English writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was published. The twelve stories in it had been previously published in The Strand literary magazine from July of 1891 through June of 1892.

These short stories introduced the world to Conan Doyle's most famous character, a detective called Sherlock Holmes. The brilliant, analytical, and laid-back Holmes was assisted by his friend, Dr. John Watson, who also served as narrator for the duo's adventures.

When he wasn't solving crimes, Holmes' passions included playing the violin and enjoying a good game of chess. He was also quite fond of cocaine. As a detective, he wasn't above deceiving the police or concealing evidence if necessary to solve the crime.

Sherlock Holmes' greatest nemesis was the evil Professor Moriarty, who possessed an equally formidable intellect. But, in his very first adventure, Holmes is outwitted by a woman.

In the first short story, A Scandal in Bohemia, the detective is called upon by the King of Bohemia, whose engagement to a Scandinavian princess is being threatened by a blackmailer.

The King's blackmailer is his jealous old flame, American opera singer Irene Adler, who possesses an incriminating photograph of them together. She threatens to release it to the press.

Believing that the photograph is somewhere inside Adler's house, Sherlock Holmes executes a brilliant ruse to get inside the house, but Adler counters with a brilliant ruse of her own, leaving him with a picture of herself alone and escaping with the incriminating photo.

Adler also leaves Holmes a letter praising his detective skills and promising not to release the incriminating photo, as long as the King takes no action against her. The King agrees and Holmes keeps Adler's picture as a souvenir of the woman who outwitted him.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes also features classic stories such as The Adventure of the Red-Headed League, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Man With the Twisted Lip, and The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.

Sherlock Holmes would become one of the most popular, iconic literary characters of all time. His adventures would appear not only in print, but also on the stage, screen, radio, and television.

Quote Of The Day

"The love of books is among the choicest gifts of the gods." - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete reading of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic short story, A Scandal in Bohemia. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Notes For October 30th, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On October 30th, 1938, the Mercury Theater radio program, famous for its radio play adaptations of classic literature, presented a production of War Of The Worlds, an adaptation of the classic science fiction novel by the legendary English writer H.G. Wells.

The radio play was written by and starred the legendary actor, filmmaker, and writer Orson Welles, who had co-founded the Mercury Theater company with actor / director John Houseman.

Welles was only 23 years old at the time of the broadcast, yet he had already established himself as a renowned stage and radio actor, having starred as the voice of the Shadow on that popular suspense program.

The Mercury Theater program aired on Sunday nights at 8PM. Many people would tune in around 8:12PM after the comedy sketch on the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show ended and a singer filled out the remaining time.

Had these late comers tuned in at the beginning of this particular episode of Mercury Theater, they would have known that what they were listening to was Orson Welles' adaptation of War Of The Worlds. Instead, they thought they were listening to a real newscast describing an actual Martian invasion of Earth!

The radio play was presented in the format of a mock news broadcast. It began with an announcer reading a weather report, then taking listeners to "the Meridian Room in the Hotel Park Plaza in downtown New York, where you will be entertained by the music of Ramon Raquello and his orchestra."

After a few minutes of dreadful dance music, an announcer broke in with a news bulletin: a scientist, Professor Farrell of the Mount Jenning Observatory, had detected explosions on Mars.

The lame dance music returned, then an announcer broke in again to report that a large meteor had crashed into a farm in Grovers Mills, New Jersey. Soon, an on-the-spot reporter at the crash site begins describing a monstrous space alien emerging from a large metallic cylinder.

Good heavens! Something's wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here's another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me ... I can see the thing's body now. It's large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it ... ladies and gentlemen, it's indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it's so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate...

The Martians initiate a massive attack, wiping out 7,000 National Guardsmen and lobbing canisters of poison gas across America. The incredibly realistic radio play featured sophisticated sound effects and a first rate cast of actors portraying announcers and other terrified characters.

When one announcer character reported that widespread panic had broken out at the crash sites, with thousands of people trying to flee, it wasn't far from the truth. Panic had actually broken out across the country, as perhaps a million people believed that Martians really had attacked the Earth!

In New Jersey, people fleeing in terror caused huge traffic jams on the highways. Others begged police for gas masks to protect them from the Martians' poison gas and pleaded with electric companies to shut off the power so the Martians couldn't see their lights.

In Indianapolis, a terrified woman ran into a church during evening services, screaming that New York had been destroyed and warning the congregation that the end of the world had come. News of the panic reached CBS studio bosses, who also panicked.

Orson Welles then broke character and went on the air as himself to remind people that they were listening to a radio play. After the broadcast, the Federal Communications Commission investigated the Mercury Theater program and concluded that no laws had been broken.

Radio networks promised to be more cautious with their programming in the future. Nevertheless, people were furious that the War Of The Worlds broadcast caused so much unnecessary duress.

Most believed that the broadcast was a Halloween prank played on listeners by Welles and his cast mates. It wasn't, but Welles gave them the impression that it was in his snarky on-air apology:

This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theater's own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying boo. Starting now, we couldn't soap all your windows and steal all your garden gates by tomorrow we did the next best thing. We annihilated the world before your very ears, and utterly destroyed the Columbia Broadcasting System.

You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn't mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please, for the next day or so, the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody's there, that was no Martian. It's Halloween.

Despite Welles' apology, many still believe that the notorious War Of The Worlds broadcast was indeed a caustic practical joke aimed at a nervous American public weary from the Great Depression and wary of the looming threat of Hitler and another world war.

Orson Welles feared that his career had been ruined by the controversy, but just the opposite happened. The publicity helped him land a lucrative movie contract with RKO Pictures, for whom he would write, direct, and star in what many (including me) consider to be the greatest film ever made - Citizen Kane (1941).

To this day, the 1938 War Of The Worlds broadcast is rightfully considered an Old Time Radio (OTR) classic and is a treasured favorite of OTR enthusiasts like myself.

The famous radio broadcast would be recreated many times and inspire tribute productions such as the 1994 TV movie, Without Warning. The movie aired on the CBS network as both a Halloween special and a tribute to the Welles broadcast.

Taking the form of a mock newscast, the movie told the story of an extraterrestrial contact apparently misinterpreted by the military, which results in a declaration of war by the unseen aliens, who then attempt to wipe out the human race.

Like Orson Welles' famous radio play, the film included disclaimers before and after the commercial breaks stating that it was indeed just a movie. Still, CBS and its affiliate stations were flooded with phone calls from frightened viewers wondering if the film's mock newscast was real.

The other TV networks - ABC, NBC, and Fox - were also flooded with calls asking why they weren't covering the same important story as CBS. The CBS network was later condemned as irresponsible for broadcasting the film on Halloween night.

Like the listeners who tuned in late to Orson Welles' famous radio broadcast, many adult TV viewers who tuned in late to Without Warning because of trick-or-treating or Halloween parties were not sure what they were seeing. Real CBS News graphics were used for the film's mock newscast.

No TV network has attempted a similar Halloween night broadcast since then. Two years before CBS aired Without Warning, the BBC broadcast Ghostwatch, a mock BBC TV reality program supposedly broadcast live from an allegedly haunted house. Many terrified viewers thought it was real.

Quote Of The Day

"Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch." - Orson Welles

Vanguard Video

Today's video features the complete 1938 Mercury Theater broadcast of War Of The Worlds. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Notes For October 29th, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On October 29th, 1740, the famous Scottish writer James Boswell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, Alexander Boswell, was a judge and the 8th Laird of Auchinleck. His mother, Euphemia, was a strict Calvinist.

As a child, James Boswell was delicate and sickly. He suffered from an inherent nervous ailment. At the age of five, Boswell was sent to the James Mundell Academy, which was an advanced school for its time; students were taught English, Latin, writing, and mathematics.

Boswell was unhappy living at the school, and his nervous ailment manifested itself in forms such as extreme shyness and night terrors. Finally, three years later, at the age of eight, he was removed from the Academy and taught by private tutors who awakened his passion for literature.

When he was thirteen, Boswell enrolled in the arts program at the University of Edinburgh. He studied there for five years, then suffered a bout of severe depression and nervous illness. When he recovered, he had finally lost his childhood delicacy and gained good health.

Boswell continued his studies at the University of Glasgow, where he was taught by the legendary writer and philosopher Adam Smith, who would become famous for his treatise on economics, The Wealth Of Nations (1776).

While at Glasgow, Boswell decided to convert to Catholicism and become a monk, which prompted his irate father to demand that he return home. Instead, Boswell ran away to London, where for three months, he lived the unrestrained life of a libertine until his father came to bring him back to Scotland.

When he returned to Edinburgh, Boswell re-enrolled at university to finish his education. On July 30th, 1762, he took his oral law exam, which he passed easily. The following year, he met Samuel Johnson for the first time, and they became close friends.

Johnson was a legendary English writer, literary critic, scholar, and lexicographer (he wrote the first dictionary of the English language) who has been rightfully described as "arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history." He called Boswell "Bozzy."

Three months after he met Johnson, Boswell left for the Netherlands, where he planned to continue his law studies at Utrecht University. Although deeply unhappy at first, Boswell eventually came to enjoy his time in Utrecht greatly.

He met and fell in love with an eccentric, vivacious young Dutchwoman named Belle van Zuiylen, who proved to be his social and intellectual superior. She wouldn't marry him, so Boswell left Utrecht and traveled around Europe for two years, where he would meet legendary French writers and philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

He also met one of his heroes, the Italian independence leader Pasquale Paoli. The diaries that Boswell kept during his time in Utrecht and his travels through Europe would later be published as Boswell In Holland (1763-64) and Boswell On The Grand Tour (1764-66).

In 1766, Boswell returned to Scotland, where he took his final law exam, passed it, and became a practicing advocate for over a decade. Once a year, he would go to London to see his friend Samuel Johnson and hobnob with London's literati. His journals and letters from this time chronicled his libertine exploits.

In a 1767 letter to W.J. Temple, Boswell wrote "I got myself quite intoxicated, went to a Bawdy-house and past a whole night in the arms of a whore. She indeed was a fine strong spirited girl, a whore worthy of Boswell if Boswell must have a whore."

Earlier, Boswell had written of a one night stand he had with an actress named Louisa. Though he occasionally used a condom for protection, Boswell would contract venereal disease at least seventeen times.

In November of 1769, Boswell married his cousin, Margaret Montgomerie. She bore him seven children, two of whom died in infancy. He also had at least two illegitimate children who died in infancy. Despite his frequent visits to brothels, Margaret remained with him for twenty years, until her death from tuberculosis in 1789.

Boswell achieved moderate literary success with the publication of his travel journals, but was unsuccessful as an advocate. By the late 1770s, he had plunged into a quagmire of alcoholism and gambling addiction, and also suffered from severe mood swings, most likely the result of bipolar disorder.

After his old friend Samuel Johnson died in 1784, Boswell moved to London to try his hand at the English Bar, but was even less successful than he was as an advocate in Scotland. So, he spent most of his last years writing a biography of Samuel Johnson, which was published in 1791.

It was a masterpiece, considered to be the greatest biography ever written. Unlike most biographies of the time, which just provided the dry details of an individual's public life, Boswell's biography of Johnson was revolutionary.

The book included far more personal information than readers of the time were accustomed to, providing them with not only a record of Johnson's public life and works, but also a vivid personal account of Johnson the man. Boswell even included transcripts of conversations he'd had with Johnson.

The longevity of Samuel Johnson's fame owes itself mostly to James Boswell's biography. With the publication of The Life of Samuel Johnson, James Boswell finally received the literary recognition he'd sought for so long. It remains a classic to this day.

After the book was published, Boswell's health began to deteriorate from the ravages of alcoholism and venereal disease. He died on May 19th, 1795, at the age of 54.

Over 120 years after Boswell's death, a large collection of his papers, including intimate journals he'd kept throughout his life, were discovered at Malahide Castle, North of Dublin. They were sold to an American collector and later passed on to Yale University, which published them.

Quote Of The Day

"I hate mankind, for I think myself one of the best of them, and I know how bad I am." - James Boswell

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a BBC documentary on James Boswell. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Notes For October 28th, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On October 28th, 1905, Mrs. Warren's Profession, the classic play by the legendary Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, opened at the Garrick Theater in New York. The play, Shaw's second, was written in 1893.

Banned in Britain by the Lord Chamberlain (England's theater censor) because of its frank depiction of prostitution, the play would finally open in London on January 5th, 1902, behind closed doors at the New Lyric Club - a private, members-only organization.

Private theatrical clubs were exempt from the censorship laws regulating public theaters in England. The play couldn't be legally performed in a a British public theater until 1926, when theatrical censorship was less strict.

Mrs. Warren's Profession centers on the relationship between Mrs. Warren, a middle-aged ex-prostitute turned brothel madam, and her prudish, conservative, Cambridge-educated daughter, Vivie.

Mrs. Warren has always hidden the truth about her profession from her daughter. When Vivie discovers that her mother's fortune was really made in the brothel business, she's horrified.

Eventually, the two strong willed women reconcile when Mrs. Warren explains that her childhood, spent in grinding poverty and despair, led her to become a prostitute because it was the only way to support herself. Vivie forgives her - until she finds out that Mom is still running brothels.

Though the play was inspired by Yvette, a novel by the legendary French writer Guy de Maupassant, George Bernard Shaw, a staunch socialist, said that he wrote Mrs. Warren's Profession for this reason:

To draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused not by female depravity and male licentiousness but simply by underpaying, undervaluing, and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together.

After opening in New York, Mrs. Warren's Profession would close after only one performance, as the play was promptly shut down by puritanical authorities.

A few days later, on October 31st, the producer and the entire cast of actors were arrested for obscenity. Fortunately, they were all acquitted of the charge in court - including George Bernard Shaw, who was tried in absentia.

Shaw would go on to write many more classic plays, including Candida (1894), Caesar And Cleopatra (1898), Major Barbara (1905), The Doctor's Dilemma (1906), Fanny's First Play (1911), and Pygmalion (1912), upon which the famous, award-winning musical My Fair Lady was based.

In all of his works, Shaw extolled the virtues of socialism and denounced all forms of capitalist exploitation, including the degradation of women. He also drew attention to the effects of poverty, violence, and war on both society and the individual.

Quote Of The Day

"The secret of success is to offend the greatest number of people." - George Bernard Shaw

Vanguard Video

Today's video features a complete live performance of Mrs. Warren's Profession. Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

IWW Members' Pulbishing Successes

Mithran Somasundrum

I've got a review of Dave Egger's, The Circle, up at the website of Chiang Mai City News.

Loretta Carrico Russell

My book review for The Hour of Lead is up at the Internet Review of Books

Friday, October 24, 2014

Notes For October 24th, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On October 24th, 1958, the legendary American mystery writer Raymond Chandler began work on his last novel, Poodle Springs, which would remain unfinished by him. It would feature the iconic character for which Chandler became famous.

That character was Philip Marlowe, a hard boiled private detective based in Los Angeles. Marlowe was different than the typical detective: intelligent (college educated) and complex, tough as nails yet sentimental at times, and semi-fluent in Spanish.

Marlowe had few friends and a passion for both classical music and the game of chess. If he suspected that a prospective client's job was unethical, he would refuse to take the case.

Chandler's writing style was hard-edged, fast moving, and peppered with clever and lyrical metaphors: "The minutes went by on tiptoe, with their fingers to their lips." This distinctive style would be referred to as Chandleresque.

Philip Marlowe made his debut in Chandler's early short stories and became the star of his classic first novel, The Big Sleep (1939). Chandler's last novel, Poodle Springs, was begun in 1958, near the end of his life.

Four years earlier, Chandler lost his beloved wife, Pearl "Cissy" Pascal, to a long illness. Devastated, he plunged into a quagmire of heavy drinking and severe depression. He never got around to interring Cissy's ashes and they sat in a storage locker for over fifty years.

Left alone at the age of 66 after nearly thirty years of marriage, Chandler attempted suicide in 1955. Thankfully, he had called the police to warn them of his intentions. He went to England for a time to recover from his mental breakdown.

Back home in the United States, he continued to drink. By 1958, he decided to take up writing again and pen another Philip Marlowe novel. Poodle Springs was Chandler's nickname for Palm Springs, where "every third elegant creature you see has at least one poodle."

There, Marlowe settles down with his new wife, wealthy socialite Linda Loring. Marlowe and Loring began their affair in the classic novel, The Long Goodbye (1953). Chandler envisioned their married life as "a running fight interspersed with amorous interludes."

In The Long Goodbye, Philip Marlowe described Linda Loring this way:

...There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn't care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Room and there is plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review.

There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can't lay a finger on her because in the first place you don't want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. She adores music and when the New York Philharmonic is playing Hindemith she can tell you which one of the six bass viols came in a quarter of a beat late. I hear Toscanini can also. That makes two of them...

After writing the first four chapters of Poodle Springs, Chandler lost interest in it, filed the manuscript away, and returned to his heavy drinking. He died several months later of alcoholism and kidney failure at the age of 70.

The first four chapters of Chandler's unfinished novel would be published as The Poodle Springs Story, included in Raymond Chandler Speaking (1962), a collection of letter excerpts and unpublished writings.

In 1988, to honor the author's 100th birthday, the Raymond Chandler estate hired crime writer Robert B. Parker to complete Chandler's unfinished novel. It was published as Poodle Springs in 1989.

Quote Of The Day

"Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say." - Raymond Chandler

Vanguard Video

Today's video features reading of Raymond Chandler's last novel Poodle Springs, performed by Elliott Gould. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Notes For October 23rd, 2014

This Day In Writing History

On October 23rd, 1942, the legendary American writer and filmmaker Michael Crichton was born. He was born John Michael Crichton in Chicago, Illinois, but grew up on Long Island, New York. His father was a journalist. He had a brother and two sisters.

Michael Crichton had an interest in writing from an early age. At the age of 14, he wrote a travel column for the New York Times. Crichton had always planned to become a writer, so in 1960, he entered Harvard University as an undergraduate student in literature.

When he came to believe that one of his professors was unfairly giving him low grades and harsh criticisms of his writing, Crichton conducted an experiment to prove it. After informing another professor of his plan, Crichton deliberately plagiarized a story by George Orwell and submitted it as his own to the suspect professor.

The story was returned with a B- grade. Despite this evidence of the professor's bias, Crichton was unable to resolve his issues with the English Department, so he switched his major to biological anthropology. He graduated summa cum laude in 1964.

Michael Crichton then enrolled in Harvard Medical School. While studying medicine, he continued to write and published several early novels under the pseudonyms John Lange, Jeffery Hudson, and Michael Douglas.

The first of these, Odds On (1966), introduced his trademark style of techno thriller. It told the story of an attempted robbery of an isolated hotel on Costa Brava. Unlike most robberies, this one has been planned scientifically through the use of critical path analysis computer software.

Crichton graduated from Harvard Medical School and obtained his M.D. in 1969. That same year, he published his first novel under his own name - a novel that would establish him as a bestselling writer. It was called The Andromeda Strain.

In this classic novel, a military satellite returns to Earth with a stowaway on board - a deadly alien microbe that infects humans and either kills them quickly or causes them to go insane and commit violent acts of suicide and / or murder.

A team of scientists is dispatched to stop the microbe before all mankind is wiped out. The novel would be adapted as an acclaimed feature film in 1971, directed by Robert Wise. It would also be adapted as a TV miniseries in 2008.

Crichton's next novel published under his own name was The Terminal Man (1972). It told the story of Harry Benson, a man in his 30s who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy.

During his seizures, Benson blacks out and wakes up hours later with no memory of what he has done - even though during some of the seizure blackouts, he attacked people and beat them savagely.

Benson volunteers to undergo an unprecedented surgical procedure where forty electrodes and a minicomputer will be implanted in his brain to control his seizures. The surgeons are warned that Benson is dangerously psychotic.

They decide to go ahead with the procedure anyway. As man and machine become one, Benson becomes even more psychotic. He escapes from the hospital and goes on a murderous rampage.

The Terminal Man was adapted as a feature film in 1974, starring George Segal as Harry Benson. It was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release, but has since become a cult classic and was finally released on DVD in 2009.

In addition to adapting his own works for the screen, in the 1970s and 80s, Michael Crichton wrote and directed original techno thriller films. His first feature film was the classic techno thriller Westworld (1973).

In the near future, tourists pay big money to visit an Old West theme park called Westworld. The park's feature attraction is a large cast of incredibly lifelike robots that the guests can interact with.

The guests can do everything from shooting it out with gunslinger robots in a ghost town to engaging in sexual encounters with the robot ladies at an Old Western brothel. All the robots are monitored by a staff of scientists and engineers in an elaborate underground control room.

The staff begins to notice that the robots are experiencing potentially dangerous malfunctions. They want to close the park, but the company executives won't let them. Soon, the robots go completely out of control and start hunting and killing the guests.

Most famous for Yul Brynner's chilling performance as a relentless, murderous gunslinger robot, Westworld became a huge hit. It was followed by a sequel, Futureworld (1976), that proved to be a critical and commercial flop, and a short lived TV series, Beyond Westworld, than ran for five episodes in 1980.

In 1981, Michael Crichton wrote and directed Looker, a techno thriller and scathing satire of the media, the advertising industry, and the unhealthy standards of beauty they promote.

Albert Finney stars as Dr. Larry Roberts, a plastic surgeon who is baffled when four women, all of them models who work in TV commercials, request cosmetic procedures so minor that they'd be completely unseen by the naked eye.

When the models start dying mysteriously, Roberts investigates and discovers that they were involved with Digital Matrix, a company that has developed the technology to scan models' bodies and create lifelike 3D computer animations of them for use in TV commercials.

As Roberts digs deeper into the mystery, he learns that Digital Matrix has also developed the technology to hypnotize people into buying the products that they see advertised in television commercials.

The 1990s would be Michael Crichton's greatest decade of success. In 1990, he published his most popular novel, Jurassic Park. Expanding on themes first addressed in Westworld, Jurassic Park was about an island where scientists have created a theme park populated by real live dinosaurs cloned from DNA found in fossils.

When the technology employed to control the dinosaurs fails due to a botched attempt at industrial espionage, the mighty reptiles escape confinement and go on a rampage. In 1993, an acclaimed movie adaptation, directed by film legend Steven Spielberg and co-written by Crichton, was released.

With its landmark use of computer animated special effects to create lifelike dinosaurs, the movie became a monster hit (no pun intended) that grossed nearly a billion dollars.

It would be followed by two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997, based on Crichton's 1995 novel, The Lost World) and Jurassic Park III (2001).

In 1992, Crichton published Rising Sun, a departure from his usual techno thriller novels. Rising Sun is a murder mystery suspense thriller with a unique angle. It addressed the then rampant American prejudice against the Japanese for buying up struggling American businesses.

The novel opens with the murder of a high priced escort, which occurs at the Los Angeles headquarters of a fictional Japanese company, the Nakamoto corporation. The girl appears to have been killed following a violent sexual encounter.

Police detective Peter J. Smith is assigned to the case. Assisting him as a consultant is retired former police captain John Connor, who has lived in Japan and is an expert on Japanese culture. Rising Sun would be adapted as acclaimed feature film in 1993.

Crichton followed Rising Sun with another suspense thriller that looked at corporate culture. Disclosure (1994) tells the story of Tom Sanders, an executive for high-tech company DigiCom, whose ex-girlfriend, fellow DigiCom executive Meredith Johnson, receives a promotion that he thought would be his.

When Meredith tries to win him back, Tom spurns her sexual advances. She takes revenge by transferring him to another department and preventing him from receiving stock options that would have made him rich. She also files false sexual harassment charges against him.

Tom decides to countersue Meredith for sexual harassment, putting the company's pending merger and his own job in jeopardy. Tom builds his case against Meredith using virtual reality technology and the assistance of a mysterious ally known only as "A. Friend."

Tom learns an unforgettable lesson about sexual politics in the workplace and discovers that he has become a pawn in a much larger game of corporate intrigue. Disclosure was adapted as a feature film in the same year that it was published.

Also in 1994, Michael Crichton returned to television. His first attempt at creating a TV series (Beyond Westworld) was a flop. In his second attempt, he created one of the most acclaimed and popular TV series of all time - a medical drama called ER.

Taking place primarily in the emergency room of a fictional hospital - County General Hospital in Chicago - the series ran for 15 years, and Crichton served as creator, producer, and head writer.

Crichton continued to write techno thriller novels, including Airframe (1996), Timeline (1999), Prey (2002), State Of Fear (2004), and Next (2006), which would be his last.

In the spring of 2008, Crichton was diagnosed with lymphoma. While undergoing chemotherapy, he died unexpectedly of throat cancer on November 4th, 2008, at the age of 66. His assistant later discovered two unpublished manuscripts on one of his computers.

Pirate Latitudes, a complete novel, was a detail-rich adventure story about pirates in 17th century Jamaica who plan to commandeer a Spanish galleon and make off with a fortune in Spanish gold. The novel was published in 2009.

The other unpublished manuscript discovered by Michael Crichton's assistant was Micro, an unfinished techno thriller about a sinister corporation that has developed the technology to shrink humans down to half an inch in size.

Crichton's publisher hired writer Richard Preston to complete the novel. It was published in 2011.

Quote Of The Day

"In the information society, nobody thinks. We expected to banish paper, but we actually banished thought." - Michael Crichton

Vanguard Video

Today's video features Michael Crichton's appearance on the Charlie Rose Show in 1995. Enjoy!

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