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Lincoln Child

I had been a fan of the museum ever since coming to New York as a dewy-eyed college graduate. I loved nothing better than taking the behind-the-scenes tours and seeing the cubbyholes where real-life Indiana Joneses hung their pith helmets. After each such tour I would leave the museum thinking, What an amazing old pile! When I retire Ill have to write its history. Then one day I realized: You dolt! Why go to all that work when you can pay some other poor scrivener to do it? After all, I was a book editor, and it was my job to find new projects for my house to publish. I found Dougs articles in the museums magazine, and I invited him to lunch. He was exactly the kind of person I was looking for: young and hungry looking (note to Preston-Child readers: imagine Bill Smithback). I pitched the idea of an informal history and armchair tour of the museum, to be written by him. He immediately jumped at it: he was more than ready to graduate from articles to full-length books. And that was the birth of what was to become Dougs nonfiction title Dinosaurs in the Attic.

During the writing of the book I was always pestering Doug for a real behind-the-scenes tour, not the two-bit one that the tourists got. But he was afraid to do it, because I didnt have the appropriate security clearance and he wasnt able to get it for me. But finally he hit on a plan: it would be a midnight tour, when presumably nobody would be around to check our credentials. Doug had a special key that would get us into many odd places and storage rooms full of strange things. So it was that, one midnight, Doug snuck me in for a personal guided tour. And what a tour! I saw flesh-eating beetles, whale eyeballs in formaldehyde, rooms full of dinosaur bones as big as VW Bugs. We ended up on the fourth floor, in the (then-named) Hall of Late Dinosaurs (no pun intended). There was a terrific storm outside, and flickers of lightning from the ceiling skylight illuminated the huge, ancient T. rex towering over us. I dont know what possessed me, but I turned to Doug and said, This is the scariest building in the world. Doug, we have to write a thriller set in a museum like this.

He turned to me, eyes shining with emotion-or maybe it was just that last wee nip of Macallan making an unwelcome reappearance.

And then a guard making his rounds surprised us. I dont know who was more scared: us, the guard, or the T. rex. But thats a story for another time.


Douglas Preston | The Lineup: The World`s Greatest Crime Writers Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives | c