Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Odds On

I’m very happy to report that my Michael Crichton book collection is now complete. I received the only book I was missing as a Christmas present. Odds On was the first book Michael Crichton ever published, under the name of John Lange. The copyright is 1966, third printing.

Front cover –
“The Riviera sizzles with sex and suspense as three thieves and one computer ignite the crime of the century.”

Inside front cover –
“The Americans needed a cover.

Lone men were too conspicuous. So they decided each would pick up a girl and mingle with the crowd.

There was Jenny, a rich wench who wanted to be loved for her body alone. Cynthia, a talented nympho who liked marijuana and men—and took them together. Annette, a working girl whose best jobs came after hours.

For the three Americans these females were extracurricular. The real interest was the hotel haul that would net them a million dollars in jewels, cash, and traveler’s checks. It was a brilliantly conceived crime, masterminded by a modern computer. But when they fed the data into the machine that would tell them what to do and when to do it, they forgot the biggest risk of all. The women.”

The same on the back cover except for the last sentence:
"But when they fed the data into the machine that would tell them what to do and when to do it, they forgot one risk factor no computer could handle--SEX.”

On page 5 we see that Crichton started his tradition of beginning his novels with quotes with this book:

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli

There are 15 chapters, but like many of Crichton’s other novels, the chapters are designated by date rather than number:

Saturday, June Fourteenth (pp. 9-16)
Sunday, June Fifteenth (pp.17-26)
Monday, June Sixteenth (pp. 27-41)
Tuesday, June Seventeenth (pp. 43-55)
Night, June Seventeenth (pp. 57-79)
Wednesday, June Eighteenth (pp. 81-101)
Thursday, June Nineteenth (pp. 103-128)
Friday, June Twentieth (pp. 129-139)
Afternoon, June Twentieth (pp. 141-153)
Saturday morning, June Twenty-First (pp. 155-162)
Afternoon, June Twenty-First (pp. 163-170)
Night, June Twenty-First (pp. 171-175)
Sunday Morning, June Twenty-Second (12:00-1:00 a.m.) (pp. 177-181)
Morning, June Twenty-Second (1:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon) (pp. 183-203)
Afternoon, June Twenty-Second (pp. 205-215)

The timespan of the novel is just a little more than a week, another similarity to Crichton’s later novels. I remember Crichton saying that he had to write the John Lange books very quickly and perhaps that was a factor in the characteristic short timespan and rapid pace of his novels.

I’m already seeing a theme of Crichton’s later work – the limits of control and predictability. I’m not going to blog on this as I read it—I prefer to absorb the book on the first reading and read it again before blogging on it. But I will discuss the book here eventually.

Links and more info on Michael Crichton at:


Lucas said...

Hi Marla, do you have any suggestions for trying to track down a copy of Odds On at a reasonable price? I'm not a collector--just think it sounds really interesting--so it's hard to justify $150+. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Marla Warren said...

My advice is to keep your eyes peeled. Watch library and charity sales, as well as Ebay. Some people don't know what they're selling. If a seller didn't know John Lange was a pseudonym for Michael Crichton, he could easily sell you the book for very little. I didn't pay anywhere close to $100+ for my copy.

Your best bet is probably to wait and see if Crichton's estate authorizes the publication of the remaining John Lange novels. I'm optimistic that this will happen. Two of the John Lange novels--Grave Descend and Zero Cool--were republished in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

Lucas said...

Thanks Marla, great advice, I'll do just that. I actually emailed Hard Case Crime awhile back to see if they'd be reprinting it, but the editor who wrote back wasn't optimistic. He said they were in contact and headed in that direction before Crichton passed away, but the lawyers controlling his estate quickly put the kibosh on it afterward.

Thanks for the help.

Marla Warren said...

From what I've heard, the lawyers in charge of Crichton's estate wanted a deal that the publisher of Hard Case Crime did not find favorable to him. Which could mean that the estate is willing to let the books be published, whenever they find a publisher they can make a deal with.

We'll just have to wait and see.