Sunday, February 12, 2006

Jaws Author, Peter Benchley Dies at 65

New York Times — Peter Benchley, whose 1974 novel "Jaws" turned shark attacks into a national obsession and who later used what he called his "fish story" to help promote oceanic conservation, died yesterday morning at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 65. The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs, said his wife, Wendy.

Even before it was published, "Jaws," Mr. Benchley's first novel, was becoming a sensation as word trickled out of the publishing business that a blockbuster story was on the way. Movie rights were bought up, magazine articles commissioned, and the great white shark was thrust into the spotlight in a way that foreshadowed the current national obsession with "The Da Vinci Code."

For several years in the mid-1970's, the great white shark was the subject of essays and comedy skits, swimmers teased one another with the foreboding "baa-dum" theme music from the Steven Spielberg film, and lifeguards and town elders tried to assure vacationers that it was safe to go into the water.

*To read the article in its entirety, click here.
** To see a special homage to the movie Jaws, click the image that accompanies this blog entry. (Be sure and click on the rabbit at the very end)

I know I won't be saying anything that countless others aren't already saying, but I really love the movie Jaws. I remember not being able to see the actual movie at the time because I was "too young," however I have fond memories of discovering the Reader's Digest Condensed Book on the shelf located in the headboard of my babysitter's guest bedroom. I was super-excited and remember reading it every time I got to go to her house. I eventually rented the movie on VHS (old school, baby!...whatever) and it stressed the shit outta me!! I loved every minute of it. Of course, I also loved part 2 and saw 3 in 3-D at the theater. I also own the complete set of 3-D tie-in bubblegum cards, thanks to my friend Nathan, as well as the movie tie-in paperbacks of both Jaws 1 and 2. I even have an Advanced Reading Copy ("Coming as a Bantam Super Release April 19, 1978!") of Jaws 2. Such happy memories.

And Benchley's killer shark wasn't my only memory. I also loved his early 90's novel The Beast (later made into a less-than-thrilling TV-movie in '96), about one of my favorite things: giant squid! They are a neverending source of fascination to me. I guess because they are so fuckin' creepy (beaks...tentacle hooks! aaaiiiigggh!) and elusive. Not to mention that they live deep, deep near the ocean floor, are naturally aggressive and scientists have discovered beached whales with squid tentacle marks the size of hubcaps! Creeeeeepy.

Thanks for all the scares, memories and fun. R.I. P., Mr. Benchley.


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