Benchley, Peter: Jaws Author, Dies at 65

Peter Benchley, best known for his novel Jaws, died Saturday at home in New Jersey. He was 65.

While his 1974 book and Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster movie of the same name led a generation of swimmers to view the ocean with apprehension, Benchley said he couldn’t write the same book today.

After filming a National Geographic special on sharks in 2000, he told the Associated Press that the behavior of the rogue great white shark in Jaws, which eats swimmers, is not backed up by recent scientific knowledge. Sharks make a quick decision on what to eat by biting it, and consider humans too thin to make a good meal, he said. Most great white sharks spit out humans.

But he recognized that the novel touched a deep nerve in humans. “Sharks come from a wing of the dark castle where our nightmares live ” deep water beyond our sight and understanding ” and so they stimulate our fears and fantasies and imaginations,” he said on his website.

Benchley advocated shark conservation, and wrote non-fiction, gave speeches and worked on dozens of TV documentaries.

“He cared very much about sharks. He spent most of his life trying to explain to people that if you are in the ocean, you’re in the shark’s territory, so it behooves you to take precautions,” Wendy Benchley, his wife, told AP.

Benchley, the grandson of humorist Robert Benchley, and the son of author Nathnaiel Benchley, was born in New York City in 1940. He attended Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, then Harvard Unbiversity, from which he graduated in 1961.

He worked at the Washington Post and Newsweek, and spent two years writing “difficult” speeches about the Vietnam War for President Lyndon Johnson.

Benchley’s novels include The Deep, which was made into a movie, The Island, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, Q Clearance, Rummies, and Beast.

Wendy Benchley said he died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs.