James Patterson Calls Completing Michael Crichton’s Final Novel ‘One of the Best Things I’ve Done’ (Exclusive)

"I defy anyone to just figure out where Michael stopped and I started," Patterson says of 'Eruption,' their unconventional collaboration

<p>Jeffery Salter/Redux; courtesy</p> James Patterson and the cover of

Jeffery Salter/Redux; courtesy

James Patterson and the cover of 'Eruption'.

When James Patterson was tapped to finish the late Michael Crichton's final manuscript, he knew he had quite a task ahead of him.

Crichton, the celebrated author of books like Congo and Jurassic Park, director of movies like Westworld and Coma, and creator of the medical drama ER, died of cancer in 2008 at 66, leaving a pregnant widow Sherri and an enormous body of research behind. When Sherri began sorting through it and found the manuscript that would become Eruption, out June 3, she knew she needed to find someone special to complete the story. She spent the next 15 years trying to find that writer.

“I really immersed myself in his work, so when I found the right person to [complete] this story, they had everything they needed,” she explains.

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That's where Patterson, 77, came in. The bestselling author of novels like Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls worked closely with Sherri to ensure the book was something that would have made its author proud.

'Eruption' by Michael Crichton and James Patterson.
'Eruption' by Michael Crichton and James Patterson.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Michael’s, so that made it particularly special,” says Patterson of the project. “If someone you admire passes, you go, ‘I just want some more.’ In this case, I wanted to find out how the story turned out, so it had to be written.”

Sherri calls the unconventional collaboration between two literary giants “a no-brainer.”

“It was an instant partnership," she says. "I remember thinking, ‘How amazing would it be if we brought these two masterminds of storytelling together? Has that ever happened before? I don’t think so, not at this level.’ Once the connection was made between these two iconic writers, I got to step back and watch the collaboration come to life on that page."

<p>Douglas Kirkland/Corbis via Getty</p> Michael Crichton in 1990

Douglas Kirkland/Corbis via Getty

Michael Crichton in 1990

Michael Crichton started writing the manuscript that would become Eruption in 1994 and worked on it sporadically for the next 14 years, leaving behind meticulous notes and an enormous body of research. Those were instrumental for Patterson, who said working on a book-in-progress was very different from his usual process, which typically starts with an extensive 60- to 80-page outline and only moves on to drafting once all of the beats are solidified.

"If I have a really cool idea, but I don't know where it's going, I probably won't do the book until at least I think I know where it's going," Patterson explains. "In this case, we had the setup. We had a lot of the stuff there, but we didn't know where it was going."

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He and Sherri worked closely in a “joyful collaboration,” which included intensive research on volcanology, to make sure the book retained Crichton’s signature gripping momentum and rigorous scientific accuracy. Eruption takes place on the Big Island of Hawaii, where a historic volcanic event is about to take place. But there’s another force brewing that could be even more devastating and, of course, plenty of breathtaking drama along the way.

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“It was a nice challenge to try to keep the pace and the drama going,” Patterson says. “I would send
[Sherri] chapters, and she would write back and give notes. I defy anyone to figure out where Michael stopped and I started because that was something that we were both very conscious of, to make sure that it had the same feel all the way through.”

Now that the book is making its way into the world, both believe he succeeded.

“I think this book stands up with the best of what he’s done,” says Patterson. “Not only is it another Michael Crichton book, but it’s a really good one. I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done.”

Eruption comes out June 3 from Little, Brown and Company and is available now for preorder, wherever books are sold.

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