Douglas Preston was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1956, and grew up in the deadly boring suburb of Wellesley. Following a distinguished career at a private nursery school--he was almost immediately expelled—he attended public schools and the Cambridge School of Weston. Notable events in his early life included the loss of a fingertip at the age of three to a bicycle; the loss of his two front teeth to his brother Richard's fist; and various broken bones, also incurred in dust-ups with Richard. (Richard went on to write The Hot Zone
and The Cobra Event
, which tells you all you need to know about what it was like to grow up with him as a brother.)
As they grew up, Doug, Richard, and their little brother David roamed the quiet suburbs of Wellesley, terrorizing the natives with home-made rockets and incendiary devices mail-ordered from the backs of comic books or concocted from chemistry sets.
After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and finally manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University and served as managing editor of Curator
, a journal for museum professionals. His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic
, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin's Press, a polymath by the name of Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: “This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!” That thriller would, of course, be Relic
In 1986, Preston piled everything he owned into the back of a Subaru and moved from New York City to Santa Fe to write full time, following the advice of S. J. Perelman that “the dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he's given the freedom to starve anywhere.” After the requisite period of penury, Preston achieved a small success with the publication of Cities of Gold
, a nonfiction book about Coronado's search for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. To research the book, Preston and the photographer Walter W. Nelson retraced on horseback 1,000 miles of Coronado's route across Arizona and New Mexico, packing their supplies and sleeping under the stars—and nearly killing themselves in the process. Since then he has published other nonfiction books on the history of the American Southwest, Talking to the Ground
and The Royal Road
. In the early 1990s Preston and Child teamed up to write suspense novels; Relic
was the first, followed by several others, including Riptide, Thunderhead
and, more recently, Fever Dream
and Two Graves
. Relic was released as a motion picture by Paramount in 1997. Preston and Child live 2,000 miles apart and mostly write their books together via telephone, email, and the cloud. They co-created one of the most celebrated detectives of modern times, A.X.L. Pendergast.
Preston has also continued an active career in journalism, contributing to such magazines as the New Yorker, Smithsonian
, National Geographic
and the Atlantic
In the year 2000, Preston moved with his family to Florence, Italy, to write a murder mystery set in Tuscany. Instead of writing the novel, however, he became fascinated by the story of a serial killer named il Mostro di Firenze, the Monster of Florence. He teamed up with an Italian journalist, Mario Spezi, who was an expert on the case. In 2008 they published a nonfiction book, The Monster of Florence
, which was a huge bestseller, spending four months on the New York Times
list. The book won numerous journalism awards in both Italy and the United States. It is currently under development as a film, starring George Clooney, who will play the part of Preston.
Preston has published a number of solo novels, including Tyrannosaur Canyon
, and Impact
. His recent novel with Lincoln Child, Cold Vengeance
, hit #1 on both the New York Times
and Wall Street Journal
Preston was Co-President of International Thriller Writers and serves on the Board of Governors of the Authors Guild. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a member of the Long Rider’s Guild. In 2011, Pomona College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.
He counts in his ancestry the poet Emily Dickinson, the early sexologist Robert Latou Dickinson, and the infamous murderer and opium addict Amasa Greenough. He divides his time between New Mexico and Maine.