Saturday, October 12, 2013

This is like going to paperback heaven - The John Lange aka Michael Crichton Books from Hard Case

Eight years ago, I reached out to Michael Crichton – author of JURASSIC PARK and THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN, scripter of WESTWORLD and TWISTER, creator of the TV show ER --  to see whether he might let us reprint some of the wonderful paperback thrillers he wrote under  the top-secret pen name “John Lange” back when he was a student at Harvard Medical School.

I knew the odds weren’t good, since he hadn’t acknowledged those books publicly or let anyone reprint them (at least in this country – I think he may have given the nod to a foreign edition or two). But…nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I wrote to him. And to my delight and surprise he said yes – provided that we keep his secret.  That is, he wanted our John Lange books to be published as by John Lange, sort of the way J.K. Rowling recently published her new crime novel as by “Robert Galbraith.” We weren’t to breathe a word of his real identity.  Well, of course we said yes, and he and we had a lot of fun working together, first on a reissue of the Edgar Award-nominated GRAVE DESCEND and then on one of ZERO COOL (for which Michael even penned two new chapters set in the present day to open and close the book…the first new writing he’d done as John Lange in more than 30 years!).  He enjoyed the new covers Greg Manchess painted for the books and the old-fashioned paperback feel, and we were talking with him about which Lange book to reissue next – ODDS ON or DRUG OF CHOICE? – when he was suddenly taken from us by cancer at the age of 66.

Working with Michael (even if we had to keep it secret) was one of the great pleasures and privileges of my career, and ever since, I’ve wished we could have completed what we began. I’ve also wondered whether Michael might eventually have given in to temptation and written a whole new Lange novel for us -- no less persuasive a figure than Stephen King was encouraging him to do so! Alas, a new Lange novel will never be…but we’re very pleased to announce that five years later we finally will get to finish what we started.  We’re going to be bringing all eight John Lange novels back to bookstores for the first time in more than four decades – and with the blessing of Michael’s family, the first time ever under the his real name.

The books are terrific reads, really delicious examples of Michael experimenting with the genres he would become famous for in later life – you’ll find sinister consequences of bioengineering (on a secret island vacation resort, no less!), you’ll find a race-against-the-clock political thriller penned long before the TV series “24,” you’ll find an archaeology professor hunting for a lost tomb in the Egyptian desert decades before Harrison Ford ever donned a fedora…plus a heist of a luxury hotel planned with the aid of a computer, a case of mistaken identity that pits an innocent man against a league of assassins, and more, all presented behind the gorgeous painted cover art of Greg Manchess and Glen Orbik.


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

This is exciting news. I have never read anything under Crichton's secret pen name. edgA 966

Douglas Mueller said...

Thanks so much for this short read. I'd got all the old John Lange books already, but I really can't wait to get these new copies. Reading about this process and what happened behind the scenes is gold. Crichton was an inspiration, thank you so much.