‘Tyrannosaur Canyon’ author eager to discover Scranton

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First Posted: 4/22/2014

New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston has a good reason to be excited to speak about his novel “Tyrannosaur Canyon,” writing, and paleontology to a library group audience this Friday night at Lackawanna College in Scranton.

“I’m a huge supporter of public libraries. I think they serve a great purpose, and I also find that audiences at library programs are wonderful audiences with interested people,” Preston explained. “They’re readers.”

“Tyrannosaur Canyon,” Preston’s 2005 sci-fi thriller, was chosen as this year’s novel for “On the Same Page,” the annual Lackawanna County library reading program. From April 1 to May 15, county residents were encouraged to read the book and attend local book discussions.

During his travels, Preston has passed through Northeastern Pennsylvania many times; however, this Friday marks the first time that the author steps foot in Scranton, something he also looks forward to very much.

“I’m always looking for exotic, interesting, unusual, and very real settings. And that, with the whole coal mining area, is really fascinating,” Preston said.

The area’s vast history in relation to anthracite coal mining, the trolley cars that helped make Scranton known as the “Electric City,” and the seemingly infinite burning of the Centralia coal fire, still raging since the early 1960s, all interest the author in a region bursting with life.

Preston’s first job out of college was at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, writing a column for the magazine Natural History. It was through this job that Preston caught the eye of future writing collaborator Lincoln Child, with whom he has written more than 20 novels.

“Writing with Lincoln Child is really a fantastic thing. We can bounce ideas off of each other. When I write something that isn’t any good, Linc will say to me quite openly, ‘You know, Doug, that stinks,’” Preston chuckled.

Child approached Preston after the former was amazed by the infinite curiosities behind the, at times, grotesque or even frightening fauna visible during a behind-the-scenes tour of the American Museum of Natural History. It was then that Child proposed that Preston write a book about the museum and its history. Thus, “Dinosaurs in the Attic” was written.

Preston has always been fascinated by dinosaurs, and spurned on by his work at the museum, he proudly states that unlike most children, he has never outgrown his love for them. Preston also credits the discovery of Sue as one of the main inspirations for “Tyrannosaur Canyon.”

Sue is the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever discovered. Paleontologist Sue Hendrickson found the bones essentially by accident in the summer of 1990 in the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“It’s an amazing fossil. So I got the idea, ‘What would be a greater discovery even than Sue?’ I thought, ‘A-ha, a T-Rex actually killed in the asteroid impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.’ A T-Rex actually killed on that day, the day the Cretaceous Period ended,” reflected Preston.

Free copies of “Tyrannosaur Canyon” are available at Library Express at The Mall at Steamtown (300 Lackawanna Ave., Scranton), along with tickets to a special reception from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Albright Memorial Library (500 Vine St., Scranton). Following the reception will be Preston’s lecture at Lackawanna College across the street, starting at 7 p.m.