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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Writer's Life 5/10 - Stalwarts

It wouldn't be a stretch to dub the late Michael Crichton a renaissance man. He earned a medical degree at Harvard, but chose to pursue writing and had a long, successful career. There are more than 200 million of his books in print. 27 novels and four works of non-fiction bear his name. At first he chose pseudonyms: one title as Jeffrey Hudson, who happened to be a 17th century dwarf; one as Michael Douglas, a co-write with his brother Michael; and nine as John Lange, the surname of which translates to "tall" in German. Crichton was six-nine. He received many awards, including the prestigious Edgar for A Case of Need. He created the acclaimed TV show ER, and directed eight adaptations of his own works for the big and small screen. He is the only artist to have ever simultaneously had the number one TV show, book (Disclosure) and movie (Jurassic Park). Named one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in 1992 by People magazine, the debonair Crichton's life wasn't all roses. He was married five times and he took a lot of heat from know-it-alls for daring to be a contrarian in the global warming debate. Three of his novels were among a recent donation to the floating book shop. I chose to read the shortest, The Terminal Man, which was published in 1972. It is the story of an intelligent man who suffers blackouts in which he becomes violent. A computer the size of a pack of butts in installed in his left shoulder. It delivers mild, pleasant stimuli to thwart the problem. This being sci-fi, the treatment goes awry. The narrative has the authenticity one would expect from someone trained in medicine. The prose and dialogue are solid. The 261 pages, minus several blanks, read more like 200. Many charts are included. I barely gave them a glance. The book was re-released in 2014 and is currently ranked 100,000th+ at Amazon, where more than 12 million books are listed. 171 users have rated it, forging to a consensus of 3.5 of five. I say three. I was disappointed that the film version is not available at Netflix. I'm always curious as to how a work is adapted. Crichton succumbed to cancer at 66 in 2008. Here is the first line of his autobiography: "It's not easy to cut through a human head with a hacksaw."

RIP one of the great character actors of all-time, William Schallert, 93. He has 374 credits listed under his name at IMDb, a number that does not include multiple TV guest shots, appearances in short-lived series, and the more than 100 episodes of The Patty Duke Show he did. Baby Boomers will also remember his as Mr. Pomfritt, a teacher on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. I didn't do a tally, but I'd guess his total is more than 500. It puts him in the territory of Irving Bacon, the Hollywood chameleon who had 542 credits, more remarkable because he was never a regular on any series and died at 71. Schallert excelled as the average Joe and at the projection of decency. I have a vague recollection of him playing a villain just once. Off screen he was married to the same woman for 51 years, until the day he died. His career spanned from 1947-2014. His last appearance was unbilled, an elevator operator in the sitcom 2 Broke Girls. Here's a telling quote attributed to him: "I believe you shouldn't become an actor unless you need to. Unless you have no choice about it. Liking--even loving--acting is not enough. You have to need to act." Well done, sir.
My thanks to the young woman in a burka, who bought two Janet Dailey romances and Anne Rice's Queen of the Damned. and to Eddie, one of Atlantic Towers stellar supers, who donated about 50 children's books.
Vic's Short Works:
Vic's 5th Novel:'s 4th novel:
Vic's 3rd Novel:
Vic's Short Story on Kindle:
Vic's Short Story Collection:
Vic's 2nd Novel: Kindle:
Vic's 1st Novel:

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