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James Patterson completes Crichton’s passion project

Leisha Chi-Santorelli,BBC News Culture, @BBCLeisha

Penguin Random House James Patterson is one of the world's best-selling authorsRandom Penguin House

James Patterson is one of the world’s best-selling authors

Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton died of cancer more than 15 years ago. Now his unfinished “passion project,” about a volcanic eruption threatening humanity, has been completed by fellow literary giant James Patterson and is already attracting keen interest in Hollywood.

Eruption takes readers on a thrilling journey across Hawaii’s largest island, which, unbeknownst to its inhabitants, hides dangerous military secrets dating back decades.

There has been no official auction yet – but Sherri Crichton, who discovered her late husband’s unfinished manuscript more than a decade ago and controls his estate, told BBC News she is currently in talks with Steven Spielberg about a possible big screen adaptation.

Crichton’s earlier works, such as Twister, Westworld and ER, sold for huge prices, making him one of the most successful book, film and television writers in the world – even in death.

“We have incredible interest,” Patterson told me in a joint interview with Sherri, “including about five stars who have raised their hands, numerous filmmakers and studios.

“When Jurassic Park came out, Michael and Steven Spielberg found a way to elevate the genre – and it was quite wonderful and different – and I think that’s what we hope to do with this.

“We have partners in mind whose mindset will not be to make just another disaster movie.”

Penguin Random House Cover of Eruption by Michael Crichton and James PattersonRandom Penguin House

Jurassic Park, Spielberg’s highest-grossing film, is now a global franchise worth more than $6 billion (£4.7 billion).

“We went back to Steven,” Sherri said.

“What was so magical was that they introduced things, like what Jim was saying, that had never been filmed before – and that’s what it deserves.

“We need that elevated place, where you’re really taken on this journey like you did with Jurassic.

“It’s the same type of thrilling, spine-tingling experience – and partnering with the right team is everything.”

Sherri knew that Patterson, the world’s greatest thriller writer, who had read all of Crichton’s novels, was the one she was looking for. And after receiving the unfinished manuscript, the 77-year-old signed up to finish it.

Sherri Crichton Michael Crichton photographed near a volcanic rimSherri Crichton

Michael Crichton was fascinated by volcanoes and collected a lot of scientific research

“I knew I was in good hands with Jim,” she said.

“Together they were like the perfect duo on the page.

“It was so exciting – and I found myself sitting, waiting, (thinking) ‘When will I start receiving the chapters?'”

They had to engage in “meticulously organized” scientific research, some so dense that Patterson had to hire a researcher, in Alaska, to help them.

James Patterson James Patterson in his officeJames Patterson

The prolific Patterson still uses a fax machine to send handwritten pages

“There was this very unusual dual storyline and they merged,” Patterson said.

“I found that compelling as a storyteller.

“My joke with Sherri was, ‘Well, now that I’ve read so much, I have to find out how it ends.’

And in less than a year, this “unprecedented literary collaboration” was completed.

“I’m really interested in these things,” Patterson said.

“I’m a ridiculous worker seven days a week.”

High-level collaborations

Patterson has sold more than 400 million books worldwide.

Popular titles include Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls and the Alex Cross series, which Amazon Prime Video is adapting for television.

In the UK, Patterson is currently only sold by Richard Osman and Colleen Hoover.

He is also the most borrowed author from British libraries, according to publisher Penguin Random House.

Eruption, which had the original working titles of The Black Zone and Vulcan, is Patterson’s first attempt at posthumous publication – but he is familiar with high-profile collaborations, having written the autobiographies of Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton.

“I challenge all readers to decide where Michael left off and I began,” he said.

“It wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to make things transparent.”

Sherri Crichton Sherri and Michael Crichton on the Amalfi Coast in August 2007Sherri Crichton

Sherri shared never-before-seen personal photos, like this 2007 Amalfi Coast vacation snap, and talked about Crichton’s creative process.

Sherri has rarely spoken publicly about her late husband.

She was pregnant with their son John Michael when he died in 2008, aged 66.

As CEO of CrichtonSun, the publishing and production arm of the Crichton estate, Sherri has worked hard to protect his legacy.

And in their Santa Monica, Calif., home, she kept her desk intact for more than a decade.

Feel closer

Along with the framed awards and movie memorabilia, there are special photos of Crichton and Spielberg together.

All of his original handwritten notes, including early drafts of the Jurassic Park books and films, are also carefully preserved.

Patterson felt pressure to do a good job with Eruption, due to the emotions surrounding the project, from Sherri and her son, who loves the novel.

There’s enough material for a sequel – or even a trilogy – but neither Patterson nor Sherri will commit to it just yet.

Meanwhile, completing Eruption made Sherri and her son feel closer to Crichton, despite their residual grief.

Sherri Crichton Hawaii is a special place for the Crichton family and helped inspire Jurassic ParkSherri Crichton

“It was his passion project and centered around the place that inspired him the most, Hawaii.”

“It lessens over the years, but it’s still very emotional,” she said.

“I found a part of Michael.

“I already loved him for his warmth and vulnerability, his playfulness and fun and genius.

“I loved him for all the obvious reasons – and we were starting our family together.”

She paused.

“Returning to his papers was a necessity to stay in contact with him.

“I needed to find a way to answer some of the questions I didn’t know how to ask his son about him.

“I didn’t want to read it in a book.

“I didn’t want to just base it on what people would say about their experience with Michael.

“I needed to know it — and I needed to be able to witness it and feel it — and what happened in that process was really falling more deeply in love.”

Eruption, by James Patterson and Michael Crichton, is published in hardback by Century on Thursday June 6 (RRP: £22).

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News Source : www.bbc.com

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