Tuesday, September 26, 2006

News: A Double Dose of Crichton

Kevin Howell* writes in the September 25th issue of Publishers Weekly that HarperCollins is planning a big splash for Next, the Michael Crichton title set for release November 28. Meanwhile, on October 31, Hard Case Crime is reissuing John Lange's 1970 novel Grave Descend by John LangeGrave Descend—and booksellers with long memories will recall that Lange is one of three pseudonyms under which Crichton has published.

The mystery is why Crichton's name is not on the mass market jacket. When the author's name is brought up, Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime's founder and editor, won't budge: "We're mentioning the only name that has ever appeared on the book. Mr. Lange is a very private person and we don't have very much information about his private life."

It's an open secret that Crichton wrote books under three pseudonyms while he was in medical school. Long ago, he owned up to writing the 1968 medical thriller A Case of Need, which won his pen name, Jeffrey Hudson, an Edgar Award and is currently published by Signet; the cover reads "Michael Crichton writing as Jeffrey Hudson." In 1970, Crichton and his brother penned Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues under the nom de plume created by combining their first names: Michael Douglas.

The eight novels published by John Lange between 1966 and 1972 are a little harder to connect to Crichton, but there are plenty of clues. The final novel, Binary, was turned into a 1972 movie of the week called Pursuit, the same movie that marked Michael Crichton's debut as a film director. Both Who's Who and Contemporary Authors credit the Lange novels to Crichton.

Crichton, 6'9" tall, supposedly chose his two pen names as riffs on his height. Lange means "tall one" in German and Dutch, while Sir Jeffrey Hudson was a 17th-century French dwarf.
Ardai won't speculate about pseudonyms (his own 2004 novel, Little Girl Lost, was published under the name "Richard Aleas") but he will vouch for Grave Descend's quality. "When I discovered John Lange's novels a few years ago, I thought they were lost gems that readers would love if they were reprinted. They're fun books. We chose this one because it felt like the most obvious fit for Hard Case Crime. His others seemed more like thrillers than crime stories. It's also the only John Lange book that was nominated for an Edgar."

No one at HarperCollins would comment on the Lange-Crichton connection; an HC spokesperson said Crichton was "finishing up the new book" and wouldn't be able to comment.

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* Reprinted with permission of the author, Kevin Howell.

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