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In memory of Peter Benchley

Today dear readers, is the fifth anniversary of the death of one of my favorite writers, Peter Benchley. I have no doubt that many of you have never heard of him, although I am sure some of you may be familiar with his work. Either way, I hope that this article shall have everyone of you knowing a bit more about him.Peter Benchley came from a family with a proud tradition in the arts, especially writing. His father Nathanial wrote many children’s books and wrote Humphrey Bogart’s biography, and his grandfather was the legendary humorist and notable actor and writer Robert Benchley, which no doubt helped to influence him into becoming a writer himself. After graduating from Harvard, he traveled the world and wrote his first book describing his travels, Time and a Ticket. For the next few years, he worked as a freelance writer, with articles appearing in Newsweek, National Geographic, and The New Yorker, as well as writing speeches for President Johnson.His big break as a novelist came with the publication for what would be his most famous and most successful book, Jaws. Within eight weeks, it had leaped to No.2 position on the New York Times’ bestseller list. Before the book was even off the presses, it had already earned over one million dollars, and quickly landed a movie deal with a screenplay penned by Benchley. It would remain on the bestseller lists for forty four weeks, and the movie based on it became the first modern blockbuster, remaining the highest grossing movie ever made until it was dethroned by Star Wars only a couple years later, and it widely held to be a cinematic classic. Having been fascinated by sharks since childhood, Benchley was rather upset at how his work had a hand in turning them into modern day demons, and dedicated much of his later life to conservation efforts dedicated towards preserving sharks.

On the heels of Jaws, he would go on to write several other novels over the next few decades with a variety of themes an stories. The Deep was about a honeymooning couple in Bermuda who fear for their lives after uncovering a lost drug cache in a shipwreck. The Island followed an investigative journalist as he discovered a remnant band of buccaneers in the Caribbean who had been behind a string of disappearances. The Girl of the Sea of Cortez provided an endearing coming of age story about a young woman’s relationship with her father and the ocean. Drawing from his experiences working in the White House, he wrote Cold War satire Q Clearance. His next book Rummies was about an alcoholic in rehab who encounters things there far more dangerous to his well-being then liqueur. His next two books returned to the same man-vs-monster formula set up by Jaws which made him famous, with Beast telling the tale of a giant squid terrorizing Bermuda, and White Shark where a new breed of creature terrorizes a Connecticut community. Yet if there is one thing each of his books had in common, it’s that they always provided a deeply entertaining and satisfying story that kept you glued to your seat, with the same blend of wit and thrills that endeared his work to me in the first place.

My own experience with his work began when I was a young boy when I first read Jaws, having just watched the movie. I was hooked from the first five pages, and rapidly finished the book and repeated the process with each of his other works. Over the many years since then, I have reread each of them several times, and he remains a favorite author of mine to read. The few other people I know who have read his work all have had similar experiences, enjoying Benchley’s natural ability to spin a good tale.

While we may have to wait a few more years before we can fully see the legacy of his work, in my humble opinion Peter Benchley is certainly one of the better authors of the modern era. So if any of you reading this are in the mood for a good page turner, please pick up one of Peter Benchley’s books and dive into the work of one of the most enjoyable authors I’ve ever read. You will not be disappointed.

3 thoughts on “In memory of Peter Benchley”

  1. The Illusive One's Reviews says:

    “Mom. What’s a lesbian?” Rotfl!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Peter Benchley: His books are violent, and educational! But mostly violent! Yay Violence!

  3. Pingback: A look at Jaws by Peter Benchley » Korsgaard's Commentary
  4. Trackback: A look at Jaws by Peter Benchley » Korsgaard's Commentary

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