Books by Peter Benchley

Released: June 11, 2002

"If you're looking for an antidote to being spooked by Jaws, there's information here to provide it. But there's just as much to spook you anew."
From Benchley (White Shark, 1994, etc.), a compendium of shark facts, tales, and personal encounters that feels as insightful and trustworthy as anything ever uttered in Jaws. Read full book review >
WHITE SHARK by Peter Benchley
Released: June 1, 1994

Benchley's (Jaws, 1974) latest chiller is a briskly entertaining, albeit predictable yarn set in his familiar literary spawning grounds. Dead animals and the occasional part of a dead person can be found floating near Simon Chase's oceanography lab off the Connecticut coast. Initially, Chase, his sidekicks—his son Max and Tall Man, a lanky Native American—and we clever readers familiar with Benchley's oeuvre believe this carnage to be the work of a shark or some other sea monster. But the title turns out to be something of a red herring. The real culprit, a seven-foot-tall aquatic humanoid with stainless steel teeth and claws, is the result of Nazi genetic experiments during WW II and is known as ``Der Weisse Hai''—and you don't need to speak German to know what that translates as. Anyway, after the submarine carrying it to an SS hideout in Argentina is destroyed in the heart-pounding prologue, the creature lies dormant for a half-century until some unlucky divers let it out of its cryogenic crypt. Once freed, ``Whitey'' gets in touch with his feelings and rediscovers his true mission in life: to hunt and kill. Peripheral characters pop up, die, and exit. Meanwhile, Chase is busy preparing his lab for Amanda Mays, a visiting marine biologist who comes to track and film whales, using cameras mounted on trained sea lions. Chase and Mays know something bad is out there after seeing footage of the creature killing one of the sea lions. Their suspicions are confirmed when retired Nazi scientist Jacob Franks arrives to give the lowdown on the monster who, by this time, has come aground to hunt more challenging prey, thereby setting up a gory and thrilling climax. The story's sum effect is hampered by foreshadowing of the ``fin-sticking-outta-the-water'' variety. Benchley's still drifting with the same current he navigated over two decades ago. (Literary Guild main selection; author tour) Read full book review >
BEAST by Peter Benchley
Released: July 1, 1991

At least Benchley (Rummies, 1989, etc.) didn't call it Tentacles—although he might have. Seventeen years after Jaws chewed up the bookracks, he now weaves another ripping sea-monster yarn, this one about an Architeuthis dux, or giant squid, menacing Bermuda. Benchley puts a 90's ecological spin on his story—the squid is on the prowl because its food supply has been diminished by wanton overfishing—but at bottom this is just another Jaws retread, opening, as did Jaws, with a night attack by the monster (here, on a castaway sailing couple) and concluding, as did Jaws, with a daylight frontal assault on a ship and crew determined to destroy it. In between, there's no romantic subplot like the one Spielberg discarded for his film of Jaws; the narrative is full- tilt action adventure, beginning with hero Whip Darling, the 41- year-old Bermudan fisherman who identifies the squid from its traces after it kills a pair of young twin divers, children of Manhattan media magnate Osborn Manning. Knowledge of the squid sends Bermuda tourism—and Darling's business—into a nose dive, but when a vengeance-minded Manning, accompanied by a Canadian squid-expert, tries to hire Darling to help hunt the squid, the Bermudian refuses: better poor than dead. He does agree to guide a submersible party, including a journalist and an obnoxious politico, to the squid's most likely haunt, leading to a terrific scene in which the hungry squid—still not fully revealed—toys with the submarine, then cracks it open to enjoy human-on-the-half- shell. Finally, Manning uses financial blackmail to force Darling to the hunt. The extended conclusion, surpassing Jaws's for excitement, sees the 100-foot squid climbing onto Darling's boat, tentacles and whips flying, eyes glowering, beak chomping, as Manning meets a predictable Ahab-like fate and Darling fights for his life. Although necessarily lacking the shock value of Jaws, this crafty, well-researched, exhilarating semi-sequel, powered by that marvelously demonic squid, who's every bit a match for the Great White, is bound to clamber way high up on the best-seller lists. Read full book review >
JAWS by Peter Benchley
Released: Jan. 18, 1973

The jaws are those of a shark which makes quick work of a pretty young woman on the Long Island shore (Amity) where the disaster is kept quiet in the (financial) interest of the town's summer rentals. This is no longer possible after the next victim—a youngster—and police chief Brody is wrongly blamed for not closing the beaches sconer. He has other troubles — namely a restless young wife who remembers better days playing country club tennis and she is not immune to a visiting ichthyologist, the only one fascinated by the local shark. The finale entails some ugly, lashing action against the big one that's been getting away and all of it is designed to jolt that maneating masculine readership who probably won't notice that it ""should of"" been better written. Read full book review >