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July 29 , 2008

Danger: Dinosaurs!


Owen Spencer would never have agreed to lead the time-slip expedition back to the Jurassic period — the Age of Reptiles — had he foreseen the terrifying experiences in store for the small group making the expedition. Chartering the expedition was Dirk Masterson, a treacherous big game hunter, whose alleged purpose was to take pictures of the enormous reptiles that roamed Jurassic times. Even when Masterson smashed the jeep into the force field, destroying the only protection that stood between the group and the lumbering beasts, Owen could not be sure it was an accident.

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Evan Hunter has written a fast-moving tale of people stranded on earth in its infancy and forced to pit their ingenuity and strength against mammoth reptiles. It might not have been so bad if Masterson, with his mania for big game hunting had not continued to shoot at every reptile he spotted. But his madman tactics repeatedly aroused the fury of the hideous dinosaurs, whose attacks drove the farther and farther away from the relay area that would slip them back to the present when the week was up.

The weird circumstances that made Owen's brother, Chuck, take over the leadership of the expedition and the even stranger adjustment of the time stream that left the party with the inexplicable feeling that somebody was missing makes DANGER: DINOSAURS! an unusual and fascinating treatment of the ever-provocative time theme. The desperate search for the relay area, interrupted by fierce fights with flesh-eating monsters, and an earthquake that creates a chaos of stampeding animals give this story action that is as alien as any distant planet.

DANGER: DINOSAURS! is a juvenile science fiction novel, published first in 1953 as one of the books in the Winston Science Fiction series.  The author, Evan Hunter, had a very successful writing career. He was also prolific and used a number of pen names. As Hunter, he wrote THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE, a novel dealing with juvenile crime and the New York City public school system. It and the 1955 movie based on the book were highly acclaimed. He also had a successful screenwriting career, producing scripts for movies and TV, including the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's film THE BIRDS (1963). However, he is probably best known for the crime fiction he wrote using the pen name Ed McBain.  His 87th Precinctseries is often credited with inventing the "police procedural" genre of crime fiction. The books were turned into a number of movies and TV series.

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