Home News How Michael Crichton’s widow Sherri got James Patterson to finish ‘Eruption’ –...

How Michael Crichton’s widow Sherri got James Patterson to finish ‘Eruption’ – The Mercury News


Novelist Michael Crichton never talked much about his works in progress, says his widow Sherri Crichton.

But she could sometimes pick up clues.

“I knew of a volcano story,” Sherri Crichton says. “That would probably come up in our conversations when we were on one of the many beautiful hikes in Kauai. He would give me fun facts about volcanic activity and the evolution of different volcanoes all over the world.

“He was always spitballing in his head where he was in his story,” she says. “So I got these little breadcrumbs of knowing that there’s a volcano story out there somewhere.”

When Michael Crichton died at 66 in November 2008, he left behind a legacy that included nearly 30 novels, including “The Andromeda Strain,” “Congo,” and “Jurassic Park,” many of which became Hollywood blockbusters. He wrote and directed films such as “Coma” and “Westworld,” and created and produced the TV series “E.R.,” which ran for 15 seasons.

After his death, Sherri Crichton, then pregnant with their son, found herself in charge of his archives and literary legacy. But with grief and an infant to juggle, it was 2010 before she really dug into the work he’d left behind.

There, she found an unfinished manuscript for the volcano story, and suddenly things shifted into focus.

“It’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, this takes place on the Big Island – Michael loved the Big Island,” Crichton says. “And there was this painting in our home of Mauna Loa. He loved that painting, but I never knew the reasons why.

“But when I had this manuscript in my hands, I realized why,” she says. “And then I was on a pilgrimage to find all the pieces of the story to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

“It was the ultimate cliffhanger,” she says. “Where is it?”

More than a decade later, Crichton found a writer to help finish the volcano story. Not just any writer, either, but James Patterson, one of the best-selling writers of thrillers ever.

“Eruption,” by Michael Crichton and James Patterson, arrives at booksellers on Monday, June 3. It is the fifth posthumous novel from Crichton, The previous four include “Pirate Latitudes” and “Dragon Teeth,” two complete manuscripts found in Crichton’s papers; “Micro,” which was completed by writer Richard Preston; and “The Andromeda Evolution,” a new sequel to “The Andromeda Strain,” written from scratch by Daniel H. Wilson.

In an interview edited for length and clarity, Sherri Crichton talks about the book’s long journey to publication, why she was nervous about letting it go, how it feels to spend so much time with her late husband’s words and memories, and more.

Q: So what else did you find to help piece together ‘Eruption’?

A: I found so many things along the way. So much research. Like videos that had to be converted because they’re completely out of date. And it’s Michael with a research team at the top of the Mauna Loa. Or driving through the streets of the Big Island, pointing out landmarks of what’s going to make it in the book.

Because Michael always wrote in reality. These streets are really there, the library’s there, the banyan tree. It was just a phenomenal experience to start putting all of these pieces of this puzzle together.

Q: When did you start thinking about what you could do with this manuscript?

A: I found the manuscript, it was probably 2010. There was a lot of work (after his death). I was pregnant with our son when he passed. And my focus was trying to keep the memory of Michael just so alive and present as I was now raising a son by myself.

It’s not that I wasn’t prepared to do that. I just didn’t want to do that. I needed to stay connected to Michael and his voice, his work. But when I found this project, it really was just so tender to my heart, because I knew how much it meant to him. And I knew how much Hawaii meant to him. [The Crichtons had homes in Los Angeles and Kauai.]

And it was clearly a passion project for him. Something that truly resonated with him on so many levels. Because volcanos pop up in a lot of Michael’s books. You’ve got volcanos in ‘Jurassic’ and ‘Congo,’ you name it.  So I wanted to find everything I could to put the pieces together.

Q: How did you go about finding the right person to help finish the book?

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