Thursday, March 12, 2009

Preston & Childs

I've been on an extended read--the collected works of Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston. Most of the books have been very appropriate for high school readers. The most recent had one mild sex scene. I strongly recommend that teachers consider including the collected works of this author team. They both bring broad technical expertise and experiences that make the fiction rich and provides pathways to more detailed explorations of each topic. The books, and connections are listed below:

Relic,, Set in the New York City Museum of Natural History readers will not only learn about the Museum and its operations, but also the history of archeological explorations into South America. Although the "monster" is fanciful, the book shows how careful research is necessary for good fiction writing.

Cabinet of Curiosities,,
Still Life with Crows,,
Dance of Death,,
Wheel of Darkness,,
Book of the Dead,,

Mount Dragon, 1996. In his deep background Lee Child has worked as a techie. One of the things I'm finding as I read the collected works of Child and Preston is that both have had varied careers and use these wide ranging career experiences as jumping-off points for their work. Douglas Preston's brother, Richard Preston, has written two important science-fiction books The Demon in the Freezer, about smallpox, and The Hot Zone, about the Ebola virus. Mount Dragon has a similar theme, the researchers are attempting to find a vaccine for the flu virus. This book is more in the fiction based roughly on science, but is a good read. It also blends in some really interesting technology ideas that will get computer geeks engaged.

Riptide, 1998. Pirates and buried treasure! I had recently seen an episode on Bones about a pit that supposedly held pirate treasure, but was also booby-trapped. This book predates that show and is based on an actual site--Oak Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. It also explores much of the history of pirates and the British Colonial period. If you go to their website you can research more about the real historical pirates and the science upon which they based many of the details of the adventure.

Thunderhead, 1999. Recently I attended an educational program at my local REI on canyoneering. The hour-long video made the slot canyon in which much of this book takes place come to life for me. When I use this book in a classroom I am going to begin with some video of these canyons. I have also had the good fortune to visit Mesa Verde and touring the cliff dwellings. The two create the background for this story the proposes a possible answer to the flight of the Anasazi Indians from their cliff dwellings. Douglas Preston has worked at the New York Museum of Natural History and knows much about archeology and archaeologists. He has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico since 1986 and thus has much experience with the American Southwest. He has also worked as an anthropologist for The Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe. If you want to get a feel for Pueblo Cultures, pot hunting (hunters), and the life style of the anthropologist this is a great place to begin.

The Ice Limit,,

Thriller ,,

About the Authors: (from Barnes & Noble)

Preston's first job was as a writer for the American Museum of Natural History in New York -- an eight year stint that led to the publication of his first book, Dinosaurs in the Attic and introduced him to his future writing partner, Lincoln Child, then working as an editor at St. Martin's Press. The two men bonded, as they worked closely together on the book. As the project neared completion, Preston treated Child to a private midnight tour of the museum, an excursion that proved fateful. As Preston tells it, " the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to [me] and said: 'This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!'" Their first collaborative effort, Relic, would not be published until 1995, by which time Preston had picked up stakes and moved to Santa Fe to pursue a full-time writing career.

In addition to writing novels (The Codex, Tyrannosaur Canyon) and nonfiction books on the American Southwest (Cities of Gold, Ribbons of Time), Preston has collaborated with Lincoln Child on several post-Relic thrillers. While not strictly a series, the books share characters and events, and the stories all take place in the same universe. The authors refer to this phenomenon as "The Preston-Child Pangea."

Preston divides his time between New Mexico and Maine, while Child lives in New Jersey -- a situation that necessitates a lot of long-distance communication. But their partnership (facilitated by phone, fax, and email) is remarkably productive and thoroughly egalitarian: They shape their plots through a series of discussions; Child sends an outline of a set of chapters; Preston writes the first draft of those chapters, which is subsequently rewritten by Child; and in this way the novel is edited back and forth until both authors are happy. They attribute the relatively seamless surface of their books to the fact that "[a]ll four hands have found their way into practically every sentence, at one time or another." (From Barnes & Noble website last accessed 3/12/09

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