Binary (novel)

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First edition cover
Author John Lange
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 225
ISBN 0-394-47987-4
OCLC 262457
LC Class PS3553.R48 B56 1972
Preceded by Dealing

Binary is a techno-thriller novel written by Michael Crichton in 1972 under the pen-name John Lange. Michael Crichton also directed Pursuit, a TV-Movie version.[1][2] The story of both the book and the film revolve around a deadly nerve agent composed by combining two different chemicals. Hard Case Crime will republish the novel under Crichton's name on October 29, 2013.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The villain is a middle-class small businessman named John Wright who decides to assassinate the President of the United States. He spends his life savings to carry out the theft of a U.S. Army shipment of the two precursor chemicals that form a deadly nerve gas codenamed VZ when combined.

The ingredients for the nerve gas VZ were intended to be detonated in downtown San Diego, corresponding with the arrival of the President to attend a Republican party conference taking place there. This nerve gas had no safe antidote, and it kills in two to three minutes after being inhaled or touched.

This nerve gas is contained inside two "Alacran" (a combustible plastic) tanks, and plastic explosives are wrapped around the containers, so that when after the nerve gas is released, the containers explode, rendering the scene of the crime untraceable.


The Guardian called said it had a "dotty, old-hat plot made unexpectedly credible with new gadgetry and well-engineered surprises".[4] The New York Times wrote "the author maintains tension ably".[5]


Directed by Michael Crichton
Produced by Robert L. Jacks
Written by Robert Dozier
Based on the novel Binary by John Lange
Starring Ben Gazzara
Martin Sheen
E.G. Marshall
William Windom
Joseph Wiseman
Lorimar Productions
Distributed by ABC
Release dates 12 December 1972[6]
Running time 75 mins
Country United States
Language English

Pursuit was a 1972 made for TV movie that screen on the ABC network. It was a TV Movie of the Week and marked Crichton's directorial debut.


A political extremist plots to destroy San Diego.


Barry Diller wanted to buy the film rights for Crichton's novel. Crichton would only agree to this on the proviso that he be able to direct. Diller was amenable, but insisted that a more experienced writer, Robert Dozier, do the screenplay. "It was crazy, another writer doing the screenplay of my book for me to direct," said Crichton, "but I was so anxious to direct I went along with it... He had a maiden director, he wanted a pro on the script."[7]

Crichton later declared that film directing was not a complicated craft. "I think you could learn all you need to know in a month," he said. "Orson Welles said four hours. But he was being outrageous".[8]

The movie was shot in the summer of 1972 over 11 days in San Diego.[9][8] Crichton:

I like the television movie. I like the form and the speed of it. I think about 80% of the movies I see on the big screens are television movies... I was terrified at first by the actors, but I found the actors will help you every chance they get. The rest of the people have no interest in taking responsibility. You're the big daddy and that's the way they want it.[7]

Crichton says his medical training came in handy being a director. "So much of medicine is doing things for the first time; you learn to plunge right in... I found out if you wanted to be in control of the situation, you had to stay on your feet. Once you sit down, your control evaporates. That's where med school came in too - you're on your feet 15 hours a day."[7]


ABC were so impressed by the quality of the movie they held it back until December to screen it. It aired opposite the Carol Burnett special Once Upon a Mattress and a repeat of NBC's adaptation of The Snow Goose.[7]

The critic from the Los Angeles Times wrote that "you cannot say that as a director, at least in this maiden effort, Crichton achieves the bone tingling suspense of his novel but Pursuit nonetheless has its own fascination... Marshall is superb; Gazzara, as usual is excellent and heads a fine support cast... Crichton attempted here a realistic, newsreel look to the film which is at its worst when real newsreels from a real political convention are inserted."[10]


  1. ^ Pursuit (1972) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ Pursuit (1972) at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^
  4. ^ DOCK BRIEFS Blame the Dead Gavinknowhow: Blame the Dead Gavinknowhow by Matthew Coady. The Guardian (1959-2003) [London (UK)] 26 Oct 1972: 15.
  5. ^ Criminals At Large By NEWGATE CALLENDAR. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 20 Aug 1972: BR26.
  6. ^ INSIDE TV: Documentary Slated on Health Crisis Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 29 Nov 1972: d24
  7. ^ a b c d Crichton Debuts as Film Director, Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Dec 1972: d27.
  8. ^ a b Author of 'Terminal Man' Building Nonterminal Career: CRICHTON GELMIS, JOSEPH. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 04 Jan 1974: d12.
  9. ^ Stars Signed for ABC-TV Movie Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 06 Apr 1972: g20.
  10. ^ Prime Rib Pickings---If Not Preempted Smith, Cecil. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 12 Dec 1972: e25.

External links[edit]