How Michael Crichton’s Widow Sherri Ushered in a Renaissance of His Work With New Book ‘Eruption’

Sherri Crichton was on a mission. She was poring over filing cabinets, old computers and scattered notes when she finally found it: a manuscript from her late husband, “Jurassic Park” and “Congo” writer Michael Crichton.

Each thread led her to the next: a draft called “Vulcan,” and other pieces called “The Black Zone” and “Black Agent.”

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She knew about a long-gestating volcano project he’d been working on before his death – they’d been to Pompeii on their honeymoon, after all. “He would leave breadcrumbs. We’d be on a hike, and he would talk to me about the formation of lava,” Sherri says over lunch in early June. “His mind was this massive database that was just pumping out great story after great story after great story.”

There was just one problem: this story wasn’t finished. “When I started reading the book, I literally was covered in chills knowing that this is it. And then there was only so much of it,” Sherri recalls.

When Michael died in 2008, Sherri was six months pregnant with their son, John Michael. “I had to teach his son what his father was about,” Sherri says of her motivation to complete Michael’s story, now called “Eruption.”

Michael and Sherri Crichton
Michael and Sherri Crichton

Sherri knew from the start that she would take this novel to the finish line. “There are certain things that will absolutely always remain private. But there are other things that would be completely selfish of me to go, ‘No, we’re gonna hold this back.’”

That sentiment makes sense, given Michael’s track record of crowd-pleasing work. To this day, he’s still the only author who’s ever been associated with the top movie, TV series and book in the U.S. within the same week (a feat he accomplished twice). Projects created by the author or adapted from his work include not only the “Jurassic Park” franchise, but also “Twister” and “Westworld.” Along with those special-effects spectacles, Crichton was also the creator of the much more grounded medical drama, “ER.”

“He was never talking down to his reader,” Sherri says of why his work, often heavily rooted in science and emerging technology, resonated with so many. “He was always feeding you information that was completely digestible, and yet pushed you to an edge.”

When it came time to move forward with the “Eruption” manuscript, Sherri consulted literary agent Shane Salerno of The Story Factory, with whom she previously worked on republishing Michael’s works from his time in medical school.

Together, they reached out to prolific author James Patterson. Sherri hadn’t met him before, but she knew her late husband to be a fan of his. “Michael had his books in his office, which was highly unusual for Michael to have anything but nonfiction in his library. But there was ‘Alex Cross.’”

Patterson read what she gave him, and quickly returned with a “voluminous” stack of pages containing an outline of how to move the story forward. Sherri felt confident that the project was in the right hands.

From the start, Sherri and Patterson made a pact that they wouldn’t reveal which elements of the book came from Michael’s original manuscript, to prevent fans from picking each sentence apart, so they could instead focus on the story.

The book has already been a popular success. Immediately upon its release on June 3, “Eruption” landed atop Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble’s bestseller lists. Before it was released, it was already receiving adaptation attention from the major studios, streamers and networks — no surprise, given that Crichton and Patterson boast combined book sales topping $700 million.

Eruption Book
Eruption Book

Sherri isn’t letting herself look that far ahead just yet, though. “For me, the idea that this could go in that direction sounds amazing. But first off, let’s not think about the future. Let’s just stay right here and make sure that what we do, we do really great,” she says. “What I want people to do is have the experience of the story in their imaginations, because nothing can measure up to one’s own imagination.”

“Eruption” isn’t Crichton’s only work headed for the big screen, even 16 years after his death. This July, “Twisters” starring Glen Powell is set to touch down on the summer box office, and a new “Jurassic” movie is in the works, featuring Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Bailey, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo and Rupert Friend.

“There’s no age bracket,” Sherri says of the mass appeal of Michael’s works. “You can be any age and be on that journey, and that’s what’s so captivating for me. I want something I can relate to.”

Michael and Sherri Crichton
Michael and Sherri Crichton

While she’s happy to share Michael’s mind with the world, she holds her own connection to him tightly. “I knew the vulnerable kind, amazing man who was gentle and loving. I didn’t know that work side.”

Now that she’s had the chance to fully understand that side of Michael, as well. “We ended too soon,” she says. “He really was the love of my life, because we connect. Good days, bad days, none of that matters. It’s just the way the souls connect.”

While she can never know for sure how Michael would feel about this posthumous chapter of his career, she got a sign on the day the “Eruption” collaboration with Patterson was announced: the Big Island of Hawaii’s Kīlauea erupted.

“Michael, I know you can do a lot of things, but maybe heaven isn’t that far away,” Sherri remembers thinking. “It really is just the next room.”

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