Crichton, Michael: The Great Train Robbery
(researched by Corey Simpson)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. Copyright © 1975 by Michael Crichton The Great Train Robbery was simultaneously published in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The First Edition was published in Trade Cloth. By 1976, a mass-market paperback edition was published.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
144 leaves, pp [12][xi] xii-xvii [1] [1-3] 4-28 [29] 30-32 [33] 34-44 [45] 46-57 [58] 59-65 [66] 67-74 [75] 76-78 [79] 80-84 [85-87] 88-94 [95] 96 [97] 98-105 [106] 107-111 [112] 113-118 [119] 120-127 [128] 129-138 [139-141] 142-143 [144] 145-148 [149] 150-190 [191] 192- 208 [209-211] 212-218 [219] 220-233 [234-238] 238-266 [2]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
Michael Crichton wrote the introduction in November 1974. The Introduction gives background information about the actual Great Train Robbery, and Victorian England. Crichton compares Victorian views on crime with 1975 views on crime. pp xii-xvii
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
Although the novel is not illustrated, the different sections of the novel include a divider page. On this page there is a black and white graphic of a train. This train also appears on the title page. pp 1, 85, 139, 209, 235
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
Page Size: 20.2 cm x 14 cm Margins: Top: 1.5 cm Bottom: 2.8 cm Right: 1.5 cm Left: 1.75 Type Size: 90R Serif Font; extremely large; spacing is standard Each new chapter has a 2-cm margin with bold San Serif type, chapter number and a hairline and 1 point line followed by chapter name The Colophon on page 268 states that "this book was set on the Linotype in Janson, a recutting made directly from type cast from matrices Ömade by Nicholas Kis (1650-1702), who probably learned his trade from the master Dutch type founder Dirk Voskens." Typography and binding design by Anthea Lingeman."
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is thick, woven with granulated texture of a high quality. The paper is not yellowed, but has a few stains to indicate normal wear and tear.
11 Description of binding(s)
Not Avaliable at this time.
12 Transcription of title page
[rule 100cm] | [rule 100 cm] | The | GREAT | TRAIN | ROBBERY | [rule 100 cm] | [train art] | [rule 100 cm] | [rule 100 cm] | BY | MICHAEL | CRICHTON| [rule 100 cm] | rule 100 cm] Alfred A. Knopf/ New York | publisher's crest] | 1975
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
The novel is dedicated to Barbara Rose on page v On page vii, there is a poem and quote: Satan is glad-when I am bad, And hopes that I-with him shall lie In fire and chains-and dreadful pains --VICTORIAN CHILD'S POEM. 1856 "I wanted the money." --EDWARD PIERCE, 1856 The novel has a table of Contents on page ix, it divides the novel into 6 parts, an Introduction; Part I: Preparations; Part II: The Keys; Part III: Delays and Difficulties; Part IV: The Great Train Robbery; and Part V: Arrest and Trial.
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
No, Knopf Publishers did not publish any other editions of The Great Train Robbery. In fact, the paperback version that appears on that appears on The New York Times and Publisher's Weekly Bestseller list was published by Batnam. Hackett, 80 Years of Bestsellers
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
No information could be found at this time. Sources consulted: Publisher's Weekly: January 27, 1975 April 28, 1975 April 26, 1976
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Reader's Digest, 1975, The Great Train Robbery appeared in a collection with Blind Love by Patrick Cauvin, Brown on Resolution by C.S. Forester, Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark, and Among the Elephants by Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton Balllantine Books, 1975, 1997: paperback trade edition Cape, 1975: London Arrow, 1995: London Batnam 1975, 1976, 1979 Dell Publishers INC, 1979 Large Print edition, 1975, 1976: London Dell Publishing Company, 1987 G.K. Hall& Company, 1975-Large print edition, 1976 Knopf, 1975 uncorrected proof Sources: Worldcat(Virgo), Infotrac
6 Last date in print?
As of Ocotber, 1999, The Great Train Robbery is currently in print. A search on infotrac shows the following editions in print: Ballantine Publishing Group, 1997 Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Limited, 1997 Buccaneer Books, Incorporated, 1994 Ballanitne Publishing Group, 1994 Dell Publishing Group, Incorporated, 1987 Batnam Books, Incorporated, 1976 Alfred A. Knopf, Incorporated, 1975: first edition Source: Infotrac
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
As of 1975, during The Great Train Robbery's time on the bestseller list, 100,634 copies were sold. The book originally cost $7.95. Sources: Hackett, 80 Years of Bestsellers Bowker Annual, 1976
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
No information could be found at this time. Sources: Publisher's Weekly: January 27, 1975 April 28, 1975 April 26, 1976
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
In the January 27th edition of Publisher's Weekly, Alfred A. Knopf publishing ran a full page ad introducing its upcoming books. Under the Month of May is "The Great Train Robbery, a novel by Michael Crichton. $7.95. Source: Publisher's Weekly,January 27, 1975
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
No information was avaliable at this time. Sources: Publisher's Weekly: January 27, 1975 April 28, 1975 April 26, 1976
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
In 1978, a full feature film, titled The Great Train Robbery was produced by United Artists Corporation. Michael Crichton wrote the screenplay and directed the film that starred Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland and Lesley-Anne Down. The 1978 Great Train Robbery film version was converted into home video, DVD, and laserdisc format. Random House Audio Books has also issued an audio cassette version of The Great Train Robbery narrated by Michael Cumptsy. Source: Worldcat (Virgo)
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
Spanish: Barcelona: Plaza & Jane Editores, 1995 Barcelona: Emecae Editores, 1995 Barcelona: Plaza & Jane Editores, 1995, third edition Mexico: Circulo de Lectores, 1976 Barcelona: Plaza & Jane Editores, 1993 Barcelona: Salvat, 1987 Madrid: Ultramar Editores, 1976, 1983 Buenos Aires: Emecae Editores, 1976 Italian: Milan: Garzanti, 1993 Source: Worldcat (Virgo)
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
The Great Train Robbery was never serialized Sources: Worldcat(Virgo), Infotrac
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
No research indicates a sequel or prequel to Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery. Trembley. Michael Crichton: A Critical Companion.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
See Disclosure entry for another biography of Michael Crichton By 1975 when Knopf publishing released The Great Train Robbery, Michael Crichton was already an established writer. His earlier novels such as Andromena Strain, Terminal Man and A Case of Need (originally published under the pysudonym Jeffrey Hudson) reflect his interest and exposure to science during his medical career. However, The Great Train Robbery deviates from his style of science fiction and adds adventure novel to Crichton's many styles. The Great Train Robbery and the movie of the same title proved an important step in Crichton's career as a writer, screenwriter and director. As a novel, The Great Train Robbery proved enormously successful. Crichton's story of Edward Piece masterminding a robbery on board a train in Victorian England "became and immediate best seller and was a Book-of -the-Month selection" (DLB 193). Critics also welcomed The Great Train Robbery. "Lehmann-Haupt enthused that he found himself 'not only captivated because it is Mr. Crichton's best thriller to date ? but also charmed most of all by the story's Victorian style and context."(database 6). Crichton's film career parallels his career as a novelist. Both his work as a writer and filmmaker had been childhood dreams (Trembley 2). Events in Crichton's life effected his writing and filmmaking. He used his medical knowledge as background for many of his novels. His move to California in 1969 gave him exposure to the filmmaking industry. Crichton observed the filmmaking process as his novels A Case of Need and Andromenda Strain were transformed into feature films. His directorial debut was Westworld (1973), in which he also wrote the script. In 1978, he adapted and directed Robin Cook's novel Coma into another film. Upon the wings of success of his films such as Coma and Westworld, The Great Train Robbery opened in 1979 staring Sean Connery, Donald Sutherland, and Lesley Ann Down. Crichton received praise for his newly released film. "These (Coma and The Great Train Robbery) led critics to claim that Crichton 'promises to be one of the most exciting new talents in American film' (B. Rose,220)"(Trembley 6). Crichton's work on The Great Train Robbery also earned him an award. In 1980, the Mystery Writers of America gave Crichton the Edgar Allen Poe Award for the best mystery motion picture. The success of The Great Train Robbery propelled Crichton's career as a writer and filmmaker. Crichton continues to produce best sellers such as Jurassic Park (1990) and Airframe (1996). He also continued to write screenplays such as the Looker (1981), Runaway (1984) and Twister (1986). Crichton's work as a writer and screenwriter can be seen currently in his Emmy award winning television series ER. Sources: Dictonary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1981. (DLB) Gale Literary Database: Michael Crichton. (Database) Trembley. Michael Crichton: A Critical Companion.
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Assignment #4: Contemporary Reception: Reviews of Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery generally applaud Crichton's tale of a train robbery in Victorian England. Critics mention the same areas in which Crichton excelled in writing The Great Train Robbery. The first and foremost mentioned aspect of The Great Train Robbery is the depiction of Victorian England. "The Great Train Robbery is stuffed with little essays and digressions on Victorian trains, slang, technology, burial customs - even a gratuitous summary of the Sepoy Rebellion"(Prescott, Newsweek). Another aspect of The Great Train Robbery that many reviews emphasize is its main character Edward Pierce. Edmund Fuller of the Wall Street Journal says that Mr. Pierce "is a compelling, seductive figure whom Mr. Crichton bring to life with cool panache" (Fuller, Wall Street Journal). Reviewers also mention Crichton's attention to details as another important feature of The Great Train Robbery. "Details are everything in setting up a good robbery, and Mr. Crichton goes about his task with almost as much relish as his characters"(Andrews, The New York Times Book Review,). Although many aspects of The Great Train Robbery are praised, many critics did not elevate it to a purely literary status. Critic evaluated the novel based upon its entertainment value for the upcoming summer months. "Michael Crichton constructs his novels with such a knowing hand for the requirements of summertime escapist reading" (Andrews, The New York Times Book Review,). Edmund Fuller says reading The Great Train Robbery is "reading for sheer fun" (Fuller). Another aspect of many reviews of The Great Train Robbery is its comparison to Crichton's earlier works The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Critics point out that this novel shows another side of Crichton as a writer. "Crichton, venturing outside the sci-fi (The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man,), again proves a skillful researcher and popularizer" (Time). Many critics pointed out the Crichton could succeed outside the realm of science fiction as The Great Train Robbery proves. One final note is that many critics foresaw the future and predicted the movie sequel to The Great Train Robbery. "We wouldn't dream of giving away the outcome, for this book has successive waves of suspense. You will certainly see it filmed" (Fuller). "With its roguish cast, its gaudy scenes and 'The Sting' still strong in the nabes, all that it needs for the silver screen is a jaunty music-hall tune"(Time). "Clifton Fadiman, still going strong at the Book-of-the Month Club ('Great Train Robbery' is the BOM July selection) , is more accurate in calling it 'a fantastic snaffle' comparable to 'The Sting'. That's no denigration. Superb entertainments are less rare than superb works of art, but they're still pretty rare, and superb is superb." -- The Village Voice "[W]hen I picked up Michael Crichton's 'The Great Train Robbery', a documentary novel about a daring crime that was actually pulled off in England in 1855. And found myself not only captivated because it is Mr. Crichton's best thriller to date?, but also charmed most of all by the story's Victorian style and content" -- The New York Times "But the book's chief fascination lies less in the enterprise itself than in its setting, the gas-lit London of 1855 with its extremes of poverty and affluence, its barbaric public executions and private sensitivities, its hypocrisy, energy and boundless optimism. Particularly well researched and described is the Victorian underworld" -The Times Literary Supplement "In this ballet mecanique, we are asked not only to suspend disbelief but to overlook a mass of incongruities made meccessary by the exigencies of the plot....To read 'The Great Train Robbery' with enjoyment through this cataclysm of gaffes, one must be wholly unaware of the real world. Not, of course, a serious deterrent in most summer reading." -- The New Yorker Sources Consulted: 1) Book Review Index 2) Newsweek June 23, 1997 p. 87 3) New Yorker August 4, 1975 p. 89-90 4) The New York Times June 10, 1975 p. 37 5) The New York Times Book Review June 22, 1974 p. 4 6) Publisher's Weekly April 26, 1976 7) Saturday Review June 26, 1976 8) The Times Literary Supplement December 26, 1975 9) Time July 14, 1975 10) Village Voice June 16, 1975 and December 15, 1975 11) Wall Street Journal June 30, 1975 and December 5, 1975
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
Assignment #4: Contemporary Reception: Reviews of Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery generally applaud Crichton's tale of a train robbery in Victorian England. Critics mention the same areas in which Crichton excelled in writing The Great Train Robbery. The first and foremost mentioned aspect of The Great Train Robbery is the depiction of Victorian England. "The Great Train Robbery is stuffed with little essays and digressions on Victorian trains, slang, technology, burial customs - even a gratuitous summary of the Sepoy Rebellion"(Prescott, Newsweek). Another aspect of The Great Train Robbery that many reviews emphasize is its main character Edward Pierce. Edmund Fuller of the Wall Street Journal says that Mr. Pierce "is a compelling, seductive figure whom Mr. Crichton bring to life with cool panache" (Fuller, Wall Street Journal). Reviewers also mention Crichton's attention to details as another important feature of The Great Train Robbery. "Details are everything in setting up a good robbery, and Mr. Crichton goes about his task with almost as much relish as his characters"(Andrews, The New York Times Book Review,). Although many aspects of The Great Train Robbery are praised, many critics did not elevate it to a purely literary status. Critic evaluated the novel based upon its entertainment value for the upcoming summer months. "Michael Crichton constructs his novels with such a knowing hand for the requirements of summertime escapist reading" (Andrews, The New York Times Book Review,). Edmund Fuller says reading The Great Train Robbery is "reading for sheer fun" (Fuller). Another aspect of many reviews of The Great Train Robbery is its comparison to Crichton's earlier works The Andromeda Strain and The Terminal Man. Critics point out that this novel shows another side of Crichton as a writer. "Crichton, venturing outside the sci-fi (The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man,), again proves a skillful researcher and popularizer" (Time). Many critics pointed out the Crichton could succeed outside the realm of science fiction as The Great Train Robbery proves. One final note is that many critics foresaw the future and predicted the movie sequel to The Great Train Robbery. "We wouldn't dream of giving away the outcome, for this book has successive waves of suspense. You will certainly see it filmed" (Fuller). "With its roguish cast, its gaudy scenes and 'The Sting' still strong in the nabes, all that it needs for the silver screen is a jaunty music-hall tune"(Time). "Clifton Fadiman, still going strong at the Book-of-the Month Club ('Great Train Robbery' is the BOM July selection) , is more accurate in calling it 'a fantastic snaffle' comparable to 'The Sting'. That's no denigration. Superb entertainments are less rare than superb works of art, but they're still pretty rare, and superb is superb." -- The Village Voice "[W]hen I picked up Michael Crichton's 'The Great Train Robbery', a documentary novel about a daring crime that was actually pulled off in England in 1855. And found myself not only captivated because it is Mr. Crichton's best thriller to date?, but also charmed most of all by the story's Victorian style and content" -- The New York Times "But the book's chief fascination lies less in the enterprise itself than in its setting, the gas-lit London of 1855 with its extremes of poverty and affluence, its barbaric public executions and private sensitivities, its hypocrisy, energy and boundless optimism. Particularly well researched and described is the Victorian underworld" -The Times Literary Supplement "In this ballet mecanique, we are asked not only to suspend disbelief but to overlook a mass of incongruities made meccessary by the exigencies of the plot....To read 'The Great Train Robbery' with enjoyment through this cataclysm of gaffes, one must be wholly unaware of the real world. Not, of course, a serious deterrent in most summer reading." -- The New Yorker Sources Consulted: 1) Book Review Index 2) Newsweek June 23, 1997 p. 87 3) New Yorker August 4, 1975 p. 89-90 4) The New York Times June 10, 1975 p. 37 5) The New York Times Book Review June 22, 1974 p. 4 6) Publisher's Weekly April 26, 1976 7) Saturday Review June 26, 1976 8) The Times Literary Supplement December 26, 1975 9) Time July 14, 1975 10) Village Voice June 16, 1975 and December 15, 1975 11) Wall Street Journal June 30, 1975 and December 5, 1975
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
In 1975, Michael Crichton departed from his best-selling style by writing The Great Train Robbery. Unlike his previous bestseller, A Case of Need and The Andromeda Strain, The Great Train Robbery does not deal with Crichton's area of expertise: science and medicine. Instead, Crichton moves his typically suspenseful plot to Victorian England. The Great Train Robbery allowed Crichton again to demonstrate his ability not only to create a suspenseful plot, but also to combine it with useful background information. Another portion of Crichton's successful formula was a social theme throughout his novels. Besides Crichton's fame and formula, the timing of publication added to The Great Train Robbery's success. Crichton's unique formula, treatment of criminal behavior, previous success as a writer and the timing of the publishing of The Great Train Robbery all collectively made the novel a success. The Great Train Robbery follows the specific formula characteristic of all Crichton fiction. The first element of the Crichton formula is the assumption that the events within the story have already happened. This assumption leads to a journalistic style of reporting and is in The Great Train Robbery as well as in The Andromeda Strain. Edmund Fuller described this documentary style as an "intregal part of the fiction" in a review of The Andromeda Strain. (Fuller 1969). "His story does not take place now, rather it is presumed to be finished ? From the start, Crichton's narrative device is documentary reporting." Because events have already happened, Crichton reports rather than tells them. The Great Train Robbery also employs this same technique. Crichton relies on quotes from the trial of Edward Pierce throughout the novel. In the introduction of the novel, Crichton describes the source of his narrative. "Many of its features were brought to light in the trial of Burgess, Agar and Pierce, the chief participants in The Great Train Robbery. They were all apprehended in 1856, nearly two years after the event. Their voluminous courtroom testimony is preserved, along with journalistic accounts of the day. It is from these sources that the following narrative is assembled"(xviii). Crichton reports the events of The Great Train Robbery, like those in The Andromeda Strain with the knowledge of the outcome. Another next element in the Crichton's formula for fiction is interaction between the plot and the background information. The Andromeda Strain contains this interaction between the "quasi-medical subject" and the story that makes an otherwise routine and sour tale more tantalizing by the spun sugar of specific factual data"(Fremont). Eliot Fremont-Smith specifically applies this interaction to The Great Train Robbery. "What's great about 'The Great Train Robbery' is the perfect interdependence of the specific caper mechanics and the background information, which delves in to nearly every aspect of Victorian English life. Thus, we not only learn all about the railway revolution, but also about then-prevalent misconception on the subject of aerodynamics, these having a direct effect upon the robbery"(Fremont). The actual robbery would not have taken place without the railroads and the misconceptions on aerodynamics. Whether using medical ideas in The Andromeda Strain or Victorian England in The Great Train Robbery, Crichton allows the details to affect the plot of his stories. The final aspect of Crichton's formula for fiction is a social theme or message. In The Andromeda Strain, Crichton's message is about exploiting science and its power. "Although, like most science-fiction writers, he fails to create characters of human dimension, he is concerned with moral values, and makes graphic the dangers of exploiting science for such goals as the perfection of chemical and biological warfare techniques"(Cooper). Crichton's social message is clear that it is dangerous to exploit science for chemical or biological warfare. The Great Train Robbery also has a message. Crichton shows the hypocrisy at all levels of Victorian Society. "Society, even an outwardly moralistic one like Victorian England, is riddled with hypocrisy at all levels, which destroys the chances for achieving any social ideals"(Trembley 69). The Great Train Robbery demonstrates the hypocrisy and how that hypocrisy hinders society from reaching its specific goal. Crichton's formula for fiction: a reporting style, with a interaction of the plot and background information, and a social theme all come together in The Great Train Robbery helping to make the novel a success. Crichton's accomplishments in writing created a following that would help thrust many of his next books, including The Great Train Robbery, to bestseller status. By 1975, Michael Crichton had established himself as a well-known writer. He wrote his first bestseller, A Case of Need, in 1968 while in medical school at Harvard under the pen name Jeffery Hudson. His next novel, The Andromeda Strain was greeted with the same success. "Michael Crichton's first novel published under his own name, The Andromeda Strain (1969), rocketed to immediate popularity. It gripped millions of readers and inspired a successful film adaptation" (Trembley 31). Critics and fans alike enjoyed Crichton's The Andromeda Strain. Newsweek assured its readers that the science fiction "genre is alive and well in the promising person of Michael Crichton" (Cooper 125). The Andromeda Strain established Michael Crichton as a science-fiction writer. Crichton wrote screenplays such as Extreme Close-up (1973) and Westworld (1973) making himself well-know and successful in yet another area. (Gale Biography 3) The Great Train Robbery reached bestseller status partly due to Michael Crichton's fame. The novel itself spent sixty-four total weeks upon the Publisher's Weekly and New York Times Bestsellers List. The mass-market edition, published by Bantam, peaked at number two in the week of July 12, 1976. This peak was the highest of any of the first editions published by either Knopf or Bantam. (Justice, 81). However, Michael Crichton's continued success with novels such as Congo, Sphere, Jurassic Park and The Lost World continue to help the success of The Great Train Robbery. In a recent publication of The Great Train Robbery the cover art not only included a picture of a moving train but also the phrase "from the author of Jurassic Park". The Ballantine Books trade edition published in 1997, features a cover that looks like it belongs to a series of novels. The novel cover has Crichton's name in big, bold letters on top followed by the title in a smaller font and then an art drawing of an antique train. The 1997 Ballantine Books trade edition of other novels such as Jurassic Park and Congo also feature the same style cover. The big name on top followed by the title then an art drawing. The only difference is the color schemes and art drawings. This example of similar covers demonstrates the importance of Michael Crichton in the best-seller history of The Great Train Robbery. His fame drove the success and continued success of The Great Train Robbery. Crichton's unique treatment of crime throughout The Great Train Robbery also contributed to its success. Crichton begins his novel with the reason why The Great Train Robbery was great by first explaining the Victorian view on crime. To Victorians, the advent of new commutations, gas lighting, and the railroad indicate that society was progressing. According to this theory "[p]rogess in physical conditions led inevitably to the eradication of social evils and criminal behavior"(xv). Victorians believed that by progress, crime could be eliminated. This theory explains why The Great Train Robbery was so shocking. "[The] criminal class had found a way to prey upon progress - and indeed to carry out a crime aboard the very hallmark of progress, the railway"(xv). The Great Train Robbery is shocking because Victorians thought crime was decreasing because of progress. They never imagined that crime would actually prey upon progress. Crichton then asserts a new, scholarly public view of criminal behavior. Crime is not a consequence of poverty, but a result of greed Criminals are intelligent Crime pays better than honest labor Most crimes remain unpunished. (xvi) The Great Train Robbery proves Crichton's points. Edward Pierce embodies these ideals of criminal behavior. He says he only commits the crime because he "wanted the money"(279). Because much of twentieth century society is based upon gaining material things, Pierce becomes a hero. "Edward Pierce is the perfect criminal hero for a society that admires independence and wealth"(68). Crichton does not condone Pierce's behavior, but rather elevated him to heroic status. Crichton's treatment of greedy criminal behavior succeeds because "[t]wentieth-century audiences admire the bravado and intelligence of the mastermind Pierce.. While our moral attitudes require condemnation of crime, our capitalistic attitudes applaud ingenuity in the spirit of making money" (Trembley 74). Because readers admire Pierce, they overlook his criminal tendencies. The treatment of criminal behavior helps The Great Train Robbery succeed by appealing to the twentieth century audience. The timing of publication also played an important role in the success of The Great Train Robbery. The early 1970s were a turbulent time in America. The Vietnam War, its atrocities and problems at home dominated the news and focus of all Americans. By 1975, Americans had grown numb and tired of this lengthy war. Another event, which drastically shaped American culture in the early 1970s, was Watergate and subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon. Because of these events, Americans were disenchanted with American government. They wanted to escape American life. Crichton's The Great Train Robbery created a time machine for many Americans. Publisher's Weekly describes the novel as "[e]scapism of the first order from a writer who has most expertly steeped himself in the past" (Bannon). Crichton's precisely detailed Victorian element gives Americans an escape from the disorder after the Vietnam and Watergate. The 1975 Bestseller list indicates escapism on a large scale in the Untied States. Other fiction novels on the 1975 Bestseller list include: "Curtain, in which the much-loved Belgian detective Hercule Poirot made his final appearance"; "Looking for Mister Goodbar, based on a real life New York City murder"; "The Eagle Has Landed is an adventure story about an attempt by German paratroopers to kidnap Winston Churchill." (Bowker 433). Another aspect of the timing of the publication of The Great Train Robbery was the growing interest in Victorian England. In the 1960s and 70s, Victorian England became a society that many Americans focused upon. Many activists compared life in the late 1960s and 70s to the repressive age of Victorian England. Early 1970s literature reflects this with the rise in interest in the Victorain Age. "Michael Crichton's The Great Train Robbery (Knopf; 266 pages $7.95) happily contributes to the current revival of British imperial style" (Time). In many reviews, The Great Train Robbery is compared with another Victorian novel .The Great Victorian Collection by Brain Moore. In Moore's novel his main character, Anthony Maloney "dreams of extraordinary collection of Victorian artifacts: fountains, locomotives, furniture, paintings, statues, clothing, jewelry, toys, pornography, and what not" (Fuller 1975). Moore's novel, which was also published during the summer of 1975, takes part in a growing interest towards Victorian England. The publication of The Great Train Robbery in the 1970s was successful due to its escapist and Victorian elements. Many factors contributed to the success of The Great Train Robbery. The author himself contributed in two ways to the accomplishments of the novel. The first being his actual success and following as an author. Crichton was famous when the book was published, and continues to be famous today. Both of these factors work together in making the novel a bestseller. The other way in which Crichton contributes to the novel is his application of his formula for fiction. His three elements: a reporting style, the interaction of plot and background, and the social theme all unite in The Great Train Robbery. Crichton's portrayal of crime as motivated simply by greed appealed to the twentieth century side of many Americans. Finally, the timing of the publication of the novel contributed to its success. The Great Train Robbery not only provided an escape to the turbulent 1970s, but a connection to the repressive age of Victorian England. Works Cited Bannon, Barbara A. "The Great Train Robbery". Publisher's Weekly. 11 June 1975. P 39 Cooper, Arthur. "Three Minutes To Death". Newsweek. 26 May 1969 125-126. Crichton, Michael. The Great Train Robbery. New York: Ballantine, 1997. "Crushers and Subgumshoes" Time. 14 July 1975. P 66 Fuller, Edmund. "Getting Out The Bugs". Wall Street Journal. 1 July 1969. Fuller, Edmund. "Ripping Off A Load Of Gold" Wall Street Journal. 30 June 1975. Fremont-Smith, Eliot. "Making Book". Village Voice. 5 December 1975. p 75 Justice. Bestseller Index. The Bowker Annual of Library And Book Trade Information. Ed: Miele, Madeline; Roberta Mobre and Sarah Prakker. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1976. Trembley, Elizabeth A. Michael Crichton: A Critic Companion. Wesport: Greenwood P, 1996.
Supplemental Material
http://spaa.simplenet.com/crichton/workography.shtml This is a web adress for a site that contains workography on all of Crichton's novels. Click on Congo, Jurrasic Park, Disclosure, and Rising Sun. Notice the cover art for the 1997 Ballintine Books trade edition of all of these works. They resmble supplementary image #1, linking each novel with its author Michael Crichton.
This is a poster from the movie verision of <u>The Great Train Robbery</u>
Cover Art from the 1997 edition of <u>The Great Train Robbery</u>
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