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Benchley, Peter

Entry updated 31 October 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1940-2006) US author best known for his first novel Jaws (1974), a best-selling tale of a great man-eating shark that terrorizes a seaside resort community; never strictly venturing into the fantastic, it has many effectively timed beats of Horror which were remorselessly amplified in the resulting Monster Movie Jaws (1975), directed by Steven Spielberg and co-scripted by Benchley and Carl Gottlieb.

The Island (1979) touches on the myths of the Bermuda Triangle, positing a nonfantastic solution of the alleged mystery in the form of the descendants of seventeenth-century pirates who prey on pleasure ships in the contemporary Caribbean. Beast (1991) determinedly attempts to recreate the success of Jaws with a giant squid in place of the famous shark; this became a television movie, The Beast (1996) directed by Jeff Bleckner. Benchley's novel of greatest sf interest is White Shark (1994; vt Peter Benchley's Creature 1998) in which the Monster proves to be a a biological Weapon created by a Nazi Scientist as "der weisse Hai" ["the great white shark"] – an SS officer who had been an Olympic-class athlete, surgically sculpted into an amphibious commando with implanted steel claws and teeth. Long in Suspended Animation Under the Sea but inadvertently released, this semi-Cyborg duly terrorizes the coastline of Long Island. The story was adapted for Television as the mini-series Creature (1998).

In later life Benchley regretted his all too effective monstering of sharks in Jaws, and became a strong advocate for marine conservation. [DRL]

Peter Bradford Benchley

born New York: 8 May 1940

died Princeton, New Jersey: 11 February 2006

works (selected)

  • Jaws (New York: Doubleday, 1974) [hb/Paul Bacon]
  • The Island (New York: Doubleday, 1979) [hb/]
  • Beast (New York: Random House, 1991) [hb/]
  • White Shark (New York: Random House, 1994) [hb/]


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