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Douglas Preston

Douglas Preston
BornDouglas Jerome Preston
(1956-05-20) May 20, 1956 (age 68)
Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationNovelist, journalist
Alma materPomona College
GenreThriller, techno-thriller, adventure, nonfiction
Notable worksAgent Pendergast Series, The Monster of Florence, Wyman Ford series, Gideon Crew series
SpouseChristine Preston
RelativesRichard Preston, David Preston

Douglas Jerome Preston (born May 31, 1956) is an American journalist and author. Although he is best known for his thrillers in collaboration with Lincoln Child (including the Agent Pendergast series and Gideon Crew series), he has also written six solo novels, including the Wyman Ford series and a novel entitled Jennie, which was made into a movie by Disney. He has authored a half-dozen nonfiction books on science and exploration and writes occasionally for The New Yorker, Smithsonian, and other magazines.

Life and early career

Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts and grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts. A graduate of the Cambridge School of Weston in Weston, Massachusetts, and Pomona College in Claremont, California, Preston began his writing career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

From 1978 to 1985, Preston worked for the American Museum of Natural History 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.[1] 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.[2] They soon collaborated on a thriller set in the museum titled Relic, published in 1995. It was subsequently made into a 1997 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.[3] 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.[4] Preston participated in an expedition that led to the discovery of an ancient city in an unexplored valley in the Mosquitia mountains of Eastern Honduras, which he chronicled in a nonfiction book, The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story.[5] On that expedition he and other expedition members contracted an incurable tropical disease known as mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, for which he received treatment at the National Institutes of Health. In 1989 and 1990 he taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. He has been active in the International Thriller Writers organization.[6]

Writing career

With his frequent collaborator Lincoln Child, he created the character of FBI Special Agent Pendergast, who appears in many of their novels, including Relic, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Brimstone, and White Fire. Additional novels by the Preston and Child team include Mount Dragon, Riptide, Thunderhead, and The Ice Limit. Later, the duo created the Gideon Crew series, which consists of Gideon's Sword, Gideon's Corpse, and The Lost Island.

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.

In addition to his collaborations with Child and his solo fictional universe, Preston has written several nonfiction books of his own, frequently about the history of the American Southwest. He has written about archaeology and paleontology for The New Yorker magazine and has also been published in Smithsonian, Harper's, The Atlantic, Natural History, and National Geographic.[7][8][9][10][11]

In May, 2011, Pomona College conferred on Preston the degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa).[12] He is the recipient of writing awards in the United States and Europe.[13]

Involvement in the "Monster of Florence" case

In 2000, Preston moved to Florence, Italy with his young family and became fascinated with an unsolved local murder mystery involving a serial killer nicknamed the "Monster of Florence". The case and his problems with the Italian authorities are the subject of his 2008 book The Monster of Florence, co-authored with Italian journalist Mario Spezi. The book spent three months on the New York Times bestseller list and won a number of journalism awards in Europe and the United States.[citation needed] It is being developed into a movie by 20th Century Fox, produced by George Clooney. Clooney will play the role of Preston.[14][15]

Involvement in the Amanda Knox case

Preston has criticized the conduct of Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini[16] in the trial of American student Amanda Knox, one of three convicted, and eventually cleared,[17] 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".[18] 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."[19] Preston published Trial By Fury: Internet Savagery and the Amanda Knox Case in 2013 as a Kindle Single eBook.

"Operation Thriller" USO Tour

In 2010, Preston participated in the first USO tour sponsored by the International Thriller Writers organization,[20] along with authors David Morrell, Steve Berry, Andy Harp, and James Rollins. After visiting with wounded soldiers and giving away books at National Navy Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the group spent over a week in Kuwait and Iraq, marking "the first time in the USO's 69-year history that authors visited a combat zone."[21] Of the experience, Preston said, "As always, we learn a great deal from all of the amazing and dedicated people we meet."[22]

Authors United

In 2014, during a disagreement over terms between Hachette Book Group and, Inc.,[23] Preston initiated an effort which became known as Authors United.[24] During the contract dispute, books by Hachette authors faced significant shipment delays, blocked availability, and reduced discounts on the Amazon website.[25] 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.[26][27] 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.[28]

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?"[29]

The Lost City of the Monkey God expedition

In 2015, Preston took part in an expedition into the Mosquitia mountains of Honduras that penetrated one of the last scientifically unexplored areas on the surface of the earth. The expedition, led by Steve Elkins and sponsored by Benenson Productions,[30] the Honduran government, and National Geographic magazine, explored a previously unknown pre-Columbian city built by a mysterious civilization that had been influenced by the Maya, but was not Maya itself. The city was discovered in an area long rumored to contain a legendary "lost city" known as La Ciudad Blanca, the White City, or the Lost City of the Monkey God.[31] The extensive archaeological site, in a remote valley ringed by mountains, had been discovered in 2012 in an aerial overflight by a team using the powerful technology of lidar (light detection and ranging), able to map the terrain under dense, triple-canopy jungle.[32]

The 2015 expedition explored and mapped the city's plazas, pyramids, and temples. It also discovered a cache of stone sculptures at the base of the city's central earthen pyramid. When excavated in 2016 and 2017, the cache revealed over 500 sacred objects which appeared to have been ceremonially broken and left as an offering at the time the city was abandoned. Preston wrote about that discovery in his 2017 nonfiction book, The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story, which became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller.[33] Preston was one of many on the expedition who contracted an aggressive parasitic disease, called mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, in the lost city.[34]

Authors Guild

In 2019, he was elected President of the Authors Guild.[35] In his capacity as president of the Authors Guild, Preston criticized the Internet Archive's National Emergency Library programme, launched in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which he described as "as though they looted a bookstore and started handing away books to passersby."[36] Preston supported a lawsuit brought by publishers against the Internet Archive over the latter's collection of e-books.[37]


This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (August 2016)


  • Preston, Douglas (1994). Jennie. New York: St. Martin's Press.
  • Extinction (2024)

Tom Broadbent novels

Wyman Ford novels

Collaborations with Lincoln Child

Agent Pendergast series

Gideon Crew series

Nora Kelly and Corrie Swanson series

  • Old Bones (2019)
  • The Scorpion's Tail (2021)
  • Diablo Mesa (2022)
  • Dead Mountain (2023)

Short fiction

  • "Gone Fishing" from Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night (2006)
  • "Extraction" [eBook] (2012)
  • "Gaslighted: Slappy the VentriloThe quist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast" from Faceoff (2014) [also released as an eBook] (2014) [45]


  • Dinosaurs In the Attic: An Excursion into the American Museum of Natural History (1986)
  • Cities of Gold: A Journey Across the American Southwest in Pursuit of Coronado (1992) [46]
  • Talking to the Ground: One Family's Journey on Horseback Across the Sacred Land of the Navajo (1996)
  • The Royal Road: El Camino Real from Mexico City to Santa Fe (1998)
  • Ribbons of Time: The Dalquest Research Site [photography by Walter W. Nelson, text by Preston] (2006)
  • The Monster of Florence: A True Story [with Mario Spezi] (2008)
  • Trial By Fury: Internet Savagery and the Amanda Knox Case [Kindle Single eBook] (2013). Collected in The Lost Tomb
  • The Forgotten Killer [with John Douglas][Kindle eBook] (2014)
  • The Lost City of the Monkey God (2017)
  • The Lost Tomb: And Other Real-Life Stories of Bones, Burials, and Murder (2023)

Articles and essays

See also


  1. ^ Child, Douglas Preston and Lincoln. "The Official Website of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - The Official Web Site".
  2. ^ Child, Douglas Preston and Lincoln. "The Official Website of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - Dinosaurs in the Attic".
  3. ^ "Members of the Long Riders' Guild".
  4. ^ "ALL THE KING'S SONS". The New Yorker.
  5. ^ Koerner, Brendan I. (20 April 2018). "A Novelist Scours the Honduran Jungle for Pre-Columbian Ruins. The Jungle Scours Him Back". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 April 2018 – via
  6. ^ "International Thriller Writers – Officers and Committees".
  7. ^ "Douglas Preston". The New Yorker.
  8. ^ "Articles by Douglas Preston - Smithsonian".
  9. ^ "Douglas J. Preston - Harper's Magazine".
  10. ^ Preston, Douglas. "Douglas Preston". The Atlantic.
  11. ^ "National Geographic magazine: August 2000 @". Archived from the original on September 17, 2014.
  12. ^ "2011 Commencement Recap - Pomona College". Archived from the original on 2014-10-16. Retrieved 2014-09-17.
  13. ^ Child, Douglas Preston and Lincoln. "Bio Preston". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  14. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: George Clooney Attached to 'Monster of Florence' Adaptation". The Hollywood Reporter.
  15. ^ Vineyard, Jen (18 October 2011). "George Clooney Says Script For 'Monster Of Florence' Being Tweaked Due To Amanda Knox Verdict - IndieWire".
  16. ^ "Tales from Italy's Dark Side: Interview with Douglas Preston
  17. ^ "Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito acquitted of Meredith Kercher murder - BBC News". BBC News. 28 March 2015.
  18. ^ "American Girl, Italian Nightmare". CBS News.
  19. ^ American Student Convicted of Murder in Italy; President Obama's Approval Numbers Sliding, Anderson Cooper 360° transcript
  20. ^ "International Thriller Writers – Operation Thriller".
  21. ^ "International Thriller Writers – 2010 USO Tour".
  22. ^ "Operation Thriller USO Tour, Day No. 4". Huffington Post. 11 November 2010.
  23. ^ "Amazon and Hachette: The dispute in 13 easy steps". Los Angeles Times. 3 June 2014.
  24. ^ Streitfeld, David (29 September 2014). "Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon's E-Book Tactics". The New York Times.
  25. ^ "Can Authors Move Amazon's Board?". The New Yorker. 17 September 2014.
  26. ^ "Authors United".
  27. ^ Flood, Alison (8 August 2014). "Bestselling authors take out full-page New York Times ad against Amazon". The Guardian.
  28. ^ "Authors United".
  29. ^ D'Addario, Daniel (8 August 2014). "Douglas Preston on his open letter about Amazon: "I'm not a firebrand, I fell into it accidentally!"".
  30. ^ "Meet Bill Benenson". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  31. ^ "Lost City Discovered in the Honduran Rain Forest". 2 March 2015. Archived from the original on March 6, 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  32. ^ Preston, Douglas (29 April 2013). "The El Dorado Machine". The New Yorker. Retrieved 20 April 2018 – via
  33. ^ Child, Douglas Preston and Lincoln. "Lost City of the Monkey God". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  34. ^ "Pernicious Parasite Strikes Explorers of 'Lost City'". 19 October 2015. Archived from the original on October 20, 2015. Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  35. ^ "Board of Directors - The Authors Guild".
  36. ^ Flood, Alison (March 30, 2020). "Internet Archive accused of using Covid-19 as 'an excuse for piracy'". The Guardian. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  37. ^ Harris, Elizabeth A. (June 1, 2020). "Publishers Sue Internet Archive Over Free E-Books". The New York Times. Retrieved June 12, 2020.
  38. ^ a b The Lost Island. 5 August 2014. ISBN 9781455525775. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  39. ^ "The Kraken Project". Retrieved 28 January 2014.
  40. ^ "White Fire". Archived from the original on 18 April 2013. Retrieved 22 February 2013.
  41. ^ "Grand Central in New Deal with Preston/Child". Publishers Weekly. PWxyz LLC. February 1, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2010.
  42. ^ Gideon's Corpse. Hachette Book Group. 2015. ISBN 9781455588084.
  43. ^ Beyond the Ice Limit. Hachette Book Group. 2016. ISBN 9781455525874.
  44. ^ The Pharaoh Key. Hachette Book Group. 2018. ISBN 9781455525805.
  45. ^ Noble, Barnes &. "Gaslighted: Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast".
  46. ^ Douglas Preston (1992). Cities of Gold: A journey across the American southwest in pursuit of Coronado. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-73759-7.
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Douglas Preston
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