Mezrich, Ben 1969- (Holden Scott)
MEZRICH, Ben 1969- (Holden Scott)
PERSONAL: Born 1969. Education: Harvard University, graduated 1991.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.
Threshold, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Reaper, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Fertile Ground, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
Skin: The X-Files, HarperEntertainment (New York, NY), 1999.
(As Holden Scott) Skeptic, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(As Holden Scott) The Carrier, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Bringing down the House: The Inside Story of Six MITStudents Who Took Vegas for Millions, Free Press (New York, NY), 2002.
ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to Bringing down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions were purchased by Trigger Street Productions, 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Ben Mezrich had been accepted into law school when he switched gears to become a writer. He told a Wigglefish.com interviewer that "it was more a rational decision, you know, thinking about how I would make a living and how I would live, is when I was looking at the law. Now that I'm writing—it's something—I haven't really wanted to put together a law thriller. I mean, I think Grisham's great, I love his books, but I just don't see myself writing that sort of book. Michael Crichton is my idol, and that's the direction I want to go."
And go he did, under both his own name and as Holden Scott, publishing his first book at the age of twenty-seven. Threshold pits fourth-year medical student Jeremy Ross, who holds a doctorate in genetics, against a mad scientist who works for the federal government. Former girlfriend Robin Kelly's father has died under mysterious circumstances, and she asks Jeremy to look into the Defense Department's genetic research project, which the dead man, and former secretary of that department had frequented. Booklist's Roland Green called the debut a "competently constructed entry in the medical thriller sweepstakes."
The theme of Reaper is that an electronic virus can spread through a fiber optic network, in this case Telcon, owned by Marcus Teal, which is so big it has put Microsoft out of business. As the new system is about to go online to every household in the country, people begin dying—nine lawyers in Boston and students playing computer games in Minnesota—from a modulation of light emanating from their computer screens. Pursuing the virus are Nick Barnes, a surgeon who, because of a crippled hand, now works as a paramedic in Boston, and Samantha Craig, a virologist with the U.S. Army. In a Booklist review, Wes Lukowsky said that the story "is rife with cyber-talk and medical jargon, and it exploits our technophobia with a frightening and believably presented scenario."
While enjoying the success of Threshold Mezrich was approached by Chris Carter's production company and asked if he would like to write for X-Files. Mezrich told Wigglefish.com that he wanted to concentrate on novels, but he did pitch an idea for an X-Files book, which was published as Skin: The X-Files. Mezrich said, "I wanted to write this X-Files book because I saw Scully as a really great medical thriller character. I mean, you know, a doctor who isn't really playing the part of a doctor any more. It's just a good role . . . an FBI agent who knows science."
Skin is about a soft-spoken history professor and burn victim who goes on a killing spree after receiving a skin graft. Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully suspect the skin is connected to the man's murderous behavior and trace it from the John Doe cadaver from which it was taken to Thailand and the unexpected source of the mysterious skin. A Science Fiction Chronicle contributor called Skin "a surprisingly good novel for a media tie in."
In Fertile Ground the mysterious Compound C is the cause of both male sterility and a rash of young men dying of massive hemorrhaging. The connection is made by Jake Foster, a fertility doctor, and his wife, Brett, who attends at the Boston Central emergency room. Corporate greed drives the plot, which a Publishers Weekly reviewer remarked "has just enough science to make it plausible," and who concluded by saying that Mezrich "competently weaves the hot topic of male infertility throughout his tumultuous tale."
Mezrich wrote Skeptic and The Carrier under the pseudonym Holden Scott. In the former, Mike Ballantine, chief of medicine at Metro Hospital, sees the governor of Massachusetts vaporized by a bomb. In attempting to save his friend, he is exposed to a substance that causes him to have hallucinations. A Chinese assassin named Sheshen is being followed by government agent Amber Chen, and she and Mike work together to untangle a plot to control the world. Booklist's William Beatty called Skeptic "an imaginative, rapid-fire story, filled with clever but believable twists and turns."
In The Carrier Michael Dutton steals his student's cancer cure then has Jake Collier expelled for plagiarism. Collier rescues his cure, which involves flesh-eating bacteria that eat cancerous cells, and goes in search of Angie, the woman he loves, who is dying of ovarian cancer. Jake becomes a carrier of the mutant strain, and the flesh of anyone he comes in contact with melts from their body, leaving behind a foul-smelling skeleton. Beatty called the story "breathtaking but believable."
Bringing down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions is the true story of how students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made some three million dollars at the blackjack tables of Las Vegas. The central character is Kevin Lewis, who is invited to join the club that trains card counters, using the strategy outlined in Beat the Dealer, by Edward Thorpe. The young men used their system, which was legal, for a number of years, traveling back and forth from Cambridge to Nevada, before the casinos caught on and banned them from gambling establishments. Actor Kevin Spacey's production company optioned the book for film, with plans to cast Spacey as the former math instructor who led the team. Frank Sennett wrote in Booklist that Mezrich's story "will grip anyone who has ever hoped to break the bank at Monte Carlo."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1996, Roland Green, review of Threshold, p. 1676; March 15, 1999, William Beatty, review of Skeptic, p. 1290; April 1, 1999, Patricia Monaghan, review of Skin: The X-Files, p. 1388; May 1, 2000, William Beatty, review of The Carrier, p. 1653; August, 2002, Frank Sennett, review of Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions, p. 1898.
Boston Globe, October 27, 2002, Jonathan Saltzman, review of Bringing Down the House.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1996, review of Threshold, pp. 552-553; December 1, 1997, review of Reaper, pp. 1730-1731; July 1, 2002, review of Bringing Down the House, p. 936.
Library Journal, January, 1998, Melissa Rockicki, review of Reaper, p. 143.
New York Times Book Review, August 18, 1996, Colin Harrison, review of Threshold.
Publishers Weekly, December 15, 1997, review of Reaper, pp. 48-49; February 1, 1999, review of Skeptic, p. 76; April 12, 1999, review of Skin, p. 59; September, 1999, review of Fertile Ground, p. 73; March 20, 2000, review of The Carrier, p. 69; July 29, 2002, review of Bringing Down the House, p. 62.
School Library Journal, July, 1999, Carol DeAngelo, review of Skeptic, p. 116.
Science Fiction Chronicle, May, 1999, review of Skin, p. 44.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com/ (December 9, 2002), Steve Nemmers, review of Reaper.
Wigglefish.com,http://www.wigglefish.com/ (December 9, 2002), "Twenty Questions with Ben Mezrich."
Writers Write,http://www.writerswrite.com/ (June, 1998), review of Reaper.*