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Robert Crichton (novelist)

Robert Crichton (January 29, 1925 – March 23, 1993) was an American novelist.


Crichton was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and grew up in Bronxville, New York.[1] Robert Crichton's father, Kyle Crichton, was a writer/editor at Collier's magazine with experience as a coal miner and steel worker; he wrote novels and biographies (including a biography of the Marx Brothers) and also wrote for The New Masses and the Daily Worker under the name Robert Forsythe, publishing a collection of articles that was entitled Redder Than the Rose.

Crichton joined the army and served in the infantry during World War II, and was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Before returning to the States, he ran an ice cream factory on the outskirts of Paris; it was, he said, his decompression chamber. He attended Harvard University on the GI Bill and was a member of the famed class of 1950.

Robert Crichton's first book, The Great Impostor, published in 1959, was the true, if picaresque, story of Fred Demara, an impostor who successfully assumed scores of guises including serving as a Trappist monk, a Texas prison warden and a practicing surgeon in the Royal Canadian Navy. The book was a bestseller and adapted into a successful 1961 film with Tony Curtis in the starring role. Crichton's second book, The Rascal and the Road, was a memoir about his escapades with Demara.

The non-fiction books were "hack-work", he said, written to support a growing family. In 1966, he published his first novel, The Secret of Santa Vittoria. The New York Times critic Orville Prescott wrote: "If I had my way the publication of Robert Crichton's brilliant novel...would be celebrated with fanfares of trumpets, with the display of banners and with festivals in the streets." The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for over 50 weeks, spending 18 of them at the top of the list,[2] and became an international bestseller. Set in an Italian hill-town and telling the story of local resistance to the Nazis during World War II, the novel was adapted into a Golden Globe winning film of the same name in 1969.

Crichton's second and last novel, The Camerons, published by Knopf in 1972, was drawn from the lives of his great grandparents, a Scottish coal mining family. It too was a bestseller. He had intended to write a sequel, but the work was never completed.

Among countless magazine articles, he was best known for an essay "Our Air War," about Frank Harvey's book, Air War: Vietnam published by The New York Review of Books, in 1968.[3]

Crichton died in 1993 in New Rochelle, New York, at the age of 68.[1]


Crichton was married to Judy Crichton, the first woman documentary producer at CBS Reports, CBS's documentary unit, and the founding executive producer of the PBS historical documentary series, The American Experience. They had four children: Sarah Crichton, publisher and writer; Rob Crichton, lawyer; Jennifer Crichton, teacher and writer. Susan Crichton is deceased.

A brother, Andrew S. Crichton, was a senior editor at Sports Illustrated from its founding in 1954 until 1976. A nephew, Kyle Crichton, is an editor on the Foreign Desk of The New York Times.


  • The Great Impostor (1959)
  • The Rascal and the Road (1961, autobiography)
  • The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1966)
  • The Camerons (1972)


  1. ^ a b Lambert, Bruce (March 24, 1993). "Robert Crichton, 68, Writer, Dies - His Best Sellers Became Hit Films". The New York Times. Retrieved May 30, 2010.
  2. ^ John Bear, The #1 New York Times Best Seller: intriguing facts about the 484 books that have been #1 New York Times bestsellers since the first list, 50 years ago, Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1992, p. 97
  3. ^ Our Air War by Robert Crichton, The New York Review of Books, January 4, 1968