Fun with Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

Quite a spell back, I picked up a book called Dragon Teeth because I had a hankering for a Western story. As I commenced to reading it, I realized that this story touches on some areas of my interest and study: dinosaur fossils.

Original image from Pixabay / PublicDomainPictures
Dr. Crichton (he obtained his MD but turned to writing instead) had several manuscripts stored and in process when he died in 2008. Some of them were completed by others, sometimes drawing from his notes. Dragon Teeth written in 1974, but was discovered much later, retouched, and subsequently published in 2017.

Dragon Teeth is about the early years of American paleontology. No dinosaurs running rampant biting heads off. Only fossils. It is a historical novel based on actual events in what is known as the Bone Wars. (It is interesting that Crichton used the word dragon several times in the text. Biblical creationists believe there is a great deal of historical evidence that dinosaurs existed with humans. No, I am not suggesting that Michael was a creationist!) The protagonist, William Johnson, met the two bone war rivals Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. They were real, but Johnson was not.

There are many novels based on historical events, and some authors attempt to be reasonably accurate with the actual people and settings. Dragon Teeth has references if y'all get the notion to read actual history (some source material is in the public domain, you can start searching at the Internet Archive if you takes such a notion). Similarly, the movie Alleged was about the Scopes trial but had fictional people. It was far more historically accurate than the detestable Inherit the Wind — which some people consider a documentary! Many books and movies have fictional elements but are otherwise accurate.

I said earlier that I obtained this book because I wanted a Western story. As it progressed, the Indian Wars, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, the town of Deadwood, and more were in the story. It definitely had some excitement in addition to the history. If you want a diversion and a bit of learning, Dragon Teeth may very well be for you. The profanity is limited, and sexual situations are implied — they are worse on network television. Also, if you want to see a presentation on the Marsh and Cope rivalry as well as their actual discoveries, see "The Dinosaur Bone Wars".