Douglas Jerome Preston (born May 20, 1956) is an American author of techno-thriller and horror novels. He has written numerous novels, and although he is most well known for his collaborations with Lincoln Child (including the Agent Pendergast series and Gideon Crew series), he has also written six solo novels, primarily including the Wyman Ford series. He also has authored a number of non-fiction books on history, science, exploration, and true crime.
From 1978 to 1985, Preston worked for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City as a writer, editor, and manager of publications. He served as managing editor for the journal Curator and was a columnist for Natural History magazine. In 1985 he published a history of the museum, Dinosaurs In The Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History, which chronicled the explorers and expeditions of the museum’s early days. The editor of that book at St. Martin’s Press was his future writing partner, Lincoln Child. They soon collaborated on a thriller set in the museum titled Relic. It was subsequently made into a motion picture by Paramount Pictures starring Penelope Ann Miller, Tom Sizemore, and Linda Hunt.
In 1986, Preston moved to New Mexico and began to write full-time. Seeking an understanding of the first moment of contact between Europeans and Native Americans in America, he retraced on horseback Francisco Vásquez de Coronado‘s violent and unsuccessful search for the legendary Seven Cities of Gold. That thousand mile journey across the American Southwest resulted in the book Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest. Since that time, Preston has undertaken many long horseback journeys retracing historic or prehistoric trails, for which he was inducted into the Long Riders’ Guild. He has also participated in expeditions in other parts of the world, including a journey deep into Khmer Rouge-held territory in the Cambodian jungle with a small army of soldiers, to become the first Westerner to visit a lost Angkor temple. He was the first person in 3,000 years to enter an ancient Egyptian burial chamber in a tomb known as KV5 in the Valley of the Kings. In 1989 and 1990 he taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. Currently, he’s an active member of the Authors Guild, as well as the International Thriller Writers organization.
For his solo career, Preston’s fictional debut was Jennie, a novel about a chimpanzee who is adopted by an American family. His next novel was The Codex, a treasure hunt novel with a style that was much closer to the thriller genre of his collaborations with Child. The Codex introduced the characters of Tom Broadbent and Sally Colorado. Tom and Sally return in Tyrannosaur Canyon, which also features the debut of Wyman Ford, an ex-CIA agent and (at the time) a monk-in-training. Following Tyrannosaur Canyon, Ford leaves the monastery where he is training, forms his own private investigation company, and replaces Broadbent as the main protagonist of Preston’s solo works. Ford subsequently returns in Blasphemy, Impact, and The Kraken Project.
Preston has criticized the conduct of Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini in the trial of American student Amanda Knox, one of three convicted, and eventually cleared, of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia in 2007. In 2009, Preston argued on 48 Hours on CBS that the case against Knox was “based on lies, superstition, and crazy conspiracy theories”. In December 2009, after the verdict had been announced, he described his own interrogation by Mignini on Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN. Preston said of Mignini, “this is a very abusive prosecutor. He makes up theories. He’s … obsessed with satanic sex.”
“Operation Thriller” USO Tour
In 2010, Preston participated in the first USO tour sponsored by the International Thriller Writers organization, along with authors David Morrell, Steve Berry, Andy Harp, and James Rollins. After visiting with military personnel at National Navy Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the group spent several days in Kuwait and Iraq, marking “the first time in the USO’s 69-year history that authors visited a combat zone.” Of the experience, Preston said, “As always, we learn a great deal from all of the amazing and dedicated people we meet.”
In 2014, during a disagreement over terms between Hachette Book Group and Amazon.com, Inc., Preston initiated an effort which became known as Authors United. During the contract dispute, books by Hachette authors faced significant shipment delays, blocked availability, and reduced discounts on the Amazon website. Frustrated with tactics he felt unjustly injured authors who were caught in the middle, Preston began garnering the support of like-minded authors from a variety of publishers. In the first open letter from Authors United, over 900 signatories urged Amazon to resolve the dispute and end the policy of sanctions, while calling on readers to contact CEO Jeff Bezos to express their support of authors.Not long after, a second open letter, signed by over 1100 authors, was sent to Amazon’s board of directors asking if they personally approved the policy of hindering the sale of certain books.
Describing the motivation behind the campaign, Preston explained: “This is about Amazon’s bullying tactics against authors. Every time they run into difficulty negotiating with a publisher, they target authors’ books for selective retaliation. The authors who were first were from university presses and small presses… Amazon is going to be negotiating with publishers forever. Are they really going to target authors every time they run into a problem with a publisher?”
Ex-CIA agent Wyman Ford returns to Cambodia to investigate the source of radioactive gemstones and uncovers an unusual impact crater. A young woman on the other side of the world photographs a meteoroid‘s passage in the atmosphere with her telescope and deduces that it must have struck on one of the islands just offshore from Round Pond, Maine. A NASA scientist analyzing data from the Mars Mapping Orbiter (MMO) spots unusual spikes in gamma ray activity. These threads intersect with discovery of an alien device that has apparently been on Deimos, one of the two moons of Mars, for at least 100 million years. Something has caused it to activate and fire a strangelet at Earth, setting off the events in the novel.
The events in this novel follow those of The Codex, Tyrannosaur Canyon, and Blasphemy. As such, Wyman Ford is the protagonist once again (having appeared in Tyrannosaur Canyon and Blasphemy), and the character of Stanton Lockwood III (who debuted in Blasphemy) also returns.