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Creator / Peter Benchley

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The man who loved sharks.
"Everything I've written is based on something that has happened to me or something that I know a great deal about."

Peter Benchley (May 8, 1940 – February 11, 2006) was an American author, whose work focused on marine creatures and human interaction with them, often with a dose of horror on the side. He is best known for being the author of the novel that Jaws was based on, though he also wrote several other books.

Later in life, Benchley became a conservationist, and attempted to educate people about sea life, and the impact they were having on it. He especially tried to get sharks protected (great whites are now protected in California and South Africa, two of their main strongholds) to undo the damage caused by Jaws. He died in 2006 of pulmonary fibrosis.

Benchley was the son of author Nathaniel Benchley and the grandson of humorist and sometime actor Robert Benchley.

Some of his works include:

  • Jaws: His first and best-known novel, dealing with a great white shark menacing a Long Island town.
  • The Deep: Divers discover a sunken ship loaded with Spanish treasure, but also recover a sample of medicinal morphine from another ship that sunk atop the first one, which attracts the attention of a local kingpin who forces them to salvage the rest of the drugs for him.
  • The Island: A journalist and his son are captured by a secret colony of pirates, lost since the seventeenth-century, and must work to escape.
  • The Girl of the Sea of Cortez: His best reviewed novel, dealing with a man's complex relation with the sea.
  • Q Clearance: A spy novel involving one of the President's speech-writers who gains a higher clearance level and is soon targeted by the Soviets in order to get his secrets.
  • Rummies: A man is sent to rehab for alcoholism and winds up having to solve the murder of one of his fellow patients.
  • Beast: A giant squid menaces the Bermuda coastline.
  • Peter Benchley's Creature: Formerly entitled White Shark, it deals with a genetically modified Nazi Serial Killer raiding a town.

Works by Peter Benchley with their own trope pages include:

Other works by Peter Benchley provide examples of:

  • Addiction Displacement: In Rummies, protagonist Scott Preston is sent away to rehab for his drinking problem. He's advised to go back to smoking (something he'd quit ages ago) to help replace it.
  • Nailed to the Wagon: Rummies has addicts sent to a rehab center that relies on this, forcing its patients to immediately quit and avoid whatever they're addicted to.
  • Off the Wagon: In Rummies, the last chapter has Duke Bailey and Scott Preston released after four weeks in rehab for their alcoholism. Duke immediately heads for the nearest bar, and reminds Scott that he'd never intended to really quit, just to learn what he could handle and what he couldn't. Averted with Scott, who actually learned his lesson from his time in rehab and refuses to join him in the bar.
  • Pirate Booty: The Deep has divers discovering a WW2 ship containing a cargo of morphine, which has sunk on top of a Spanish treasure ship that went down in the 18th century holding a priceless royal dowry. When a local drug kingpin takes an interest, the protagonists have to buy him off by salvaging the morphine while concealing what their real area of interest is.
  • Recovered Addict: Scott Preston, by the end of Rummies. He's truly learned from his four weeks in rehab, proving he's kicked the habit when he refuses to join a fellow patient in going to a bar after leaving and later passes up a chance at another bar on his way to the airplane that will take him home.
  • Ruthless Modern Pirates: The villains of The Island, descended from a lost seventeenth-century colony of old-time pirates.
  • Spy Speak: In Q Clearance, a Soviet spy in Washington DC is supposed to receive a package from an courier. He and his handler try to come up with the appropriate Spy Speak to prove his bona fides. The spy considers the handler's dialog suggestion impossibly polite for the urban neighborhood:
    Teal: Your contact is in a phone booth on the corner.
    Pym: OK, I'll go get the package from him.
    Teal: Wait! How will he know it's you?
    Pym: I'll tell him who I am and ask for it.
    Teal: No, no! Think, man! Craft!... you say, "Is this phone out of order?" He'll say, "No, but I'm waiting for a call." You say, "I'll find another phone then."
    Pym: [thinking] In this neighborhood? It'll be more like "Is this phone broke?" "The fuck's it to you?" "I gotta make a fuckin' call." "You touch that fuckin' phone, I'll break all your fuckin' fingers."
  • Staging an Intervention: In Rummies, protagonist Scott Preston receives an intervention from his family at the start of the book, pointing out that he's an alcoholic and seriously needs help. He winds up spending the rest of the book in rehab for it.

Peter Benchley's life provides examples of:

  • The Atoner and Creator Backlash: Benchley came to regret the panic that books like Jaws created, stating later in life that if he were to write the book for a modern audience, the shark would be a Tragic Villain and not the ultimate evil. He spent the rest of his life trying to make up for it by becoming an activist for ocean conservation.
  • Old Shame: Jaws' popularity turned the book into this for Peter Benchley. The movie set off a wave of paranoia about going to the beach as well as a renewed spate of shark-hunting that drove various species almost to the point of extinction. Benchley lamented that he would never have written the book had he actually known anything about sharks and that they weren't like the monster he'd written of.