by Peter Benchley


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Jaws by Peter Benchley

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The classic suspense novel of shark versus man, which was made into the blockbuster Steven Spielberg movie. The Jaws phenomenon changed popular culture and continues to inspire a growing interest in sharks and the oceans today.
When Peter Benchley wrote Jaws in the early 1970s, he meticulously researched all available data about shark behavior. Over the ensuing decades, Benchley was actively engaged with scientists and filmmakers on expeditions around the world as they expanded their knowledge of sharks. Also during this time, there was an unprecedented upswing in the number of sharks killed to make shark-fin soup, and Benchley worked with governments and nonprofits to sound the alarm for shark conservation. He encouraged each new generation of Jaws fans to enjoy his riveting tale and to channel their excitement into support and protection of these magnificent, prehistoric apex predators.
This edition of Jaws contains bonus content from Peter Benchley’s archives, including the original typed title page, a brainstorming list of possible titles, a letter from Benchley to producer David Brown with honest feedback on the movie adaptation, and excerpts from Benchley’s book Shark Trouble highlighting his firsthand account of writing Jaws, selling it to Universal Studios, and working with Steven Spielberg.
Praise for Jaws
“A tightly written, tautly paced study of terror [that] makes us tingle.”The Washington Post
“Powerful . . . [Benchley’s] story grabs you at once.”The New York Times Book Review
“Relentless terror . . . You’d better steel yourself for this one. It isn’t a tale for the faint of heart.”The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Pure engrossment from the very opening . . . a fine story told with style, class, and a splendid feeling for suspense.”Chicago Sun-Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345544148
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/06/2013
Series: Jaws Series , #1
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 58,121
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Peter Benchley began his career as a novelist in 1974 with the publication of Jaws, which was made into a hugely successful film. His other books include The Deep, The Island, The Girl of the Sea of Cortez, “Q” Clearance, Rummies, Beast, White Shark, and Shark Trouble. He was also a speechwriter for President Lyndon Johnson and a journalist for such magazines as Newsweek and National Geographic. Benchley died in 2006. For more information, please visit www.peterbenchley.com.

Date of Birth:

May 8, 1940

Date of Death:

February 12, 2006

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

Princeton, New Jersey


Phillips Exeter Academy; B.A. in English, Harvard University, 1961

Read an Excerpt

The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail. The mouth was open just enough to permit a rush of water over the gills. There was little other motion: an occasional correction of the apparently aimless course by the slight raising or lowering of a pectoral fin—as a bird changes direction by dipping one wing and lifting the other. The eyes were sightless in the black, and the other senses transmitted nothing extraordinary to the small, primitive brain. The fish might have been asleep, save for the movement dictated by countless millions of years of instinctive continuity: lacking the flotation bladder common to other fish and the fluttering flaps to push oxygen-bearing water through its gills, it survived only by moving. Once stopped, it would sink to the bottom and die of anoxia.
The land seemed almost as dark as the water, for there was no moon. All that separated sea from shore was a long, straight stretch of beach—so white that it shone. From a house behind the grass-splotched dunes, lights cast yellow glimmers on the sand.
The front door to the house opened, and a man and a woman stepped out onto the wooden porch. They stood for a moment staring at the sea, embraced quickly, and scampered down the few steps onto the sand. The man was drunk, and he stumbled on the bottom step. The woman laughed and took his hand, and together they ran to the beach.
“First a swim,” said the woman, “to clear your head.”
“Forget my head,” said the man. Giggling, he fell backward onto the sand, pulling the woman down with him. They fumbled with each other’s clothing, twined limbs around limbs, and thrashed with urgent ardor on the cold sand.
Afterward, the man lay back and closed his eyes. The woman looked at him and smiled. “Now, how about that swim?” she said.
“You go ahead. I’ll wait for you here.”
The woman rose and walked to where the gentle surf washed over her ankles. The water was colder than the night air, for it was only mid-June. The woman called back, “You’re sure you don’t want to come?” But there was no answer from the sleeping man.
She backed up a few steps, then ran at the water. At first her strides were long and graceful, but then a small wave crashed into her knees. She faltered, regained her footing, and flung herself over the next waist-high wave. The water was only up to her hips, so she stood, pushed the hair out of her eyes, and continued walking until the water covered her shoulders. There she began to swim—with the jerky, head-above-water stroke of the untutored.
A hundred yards offshore, the fish sensed a change in the sea’s rhythm. It did not see the woman, nor yet did it smell her. Running within the length of its body were a series of thin canals, filled with mucus and dotted with nerve endings, and these nerves detected vibrations and signaled the brain. The fish turned toward shore.
The woman continued to swim away from the beach, stopping now and then to check her position by the lights shining from the house. The tide was slack, so she had not moved up or down the beach. But she was tiring, so she rested for a moment, treading water, and then started for shore.
The vibrations were stronger now, and the fish recognized prey. The sweeps of its tail quickened, thrusting the giant body forward with a speed that agitated the tiny phosphorescent animals in the water and caused them to glow, casting a mantle of sparks over the fish.
The fish closed on the woman and hurtled past, a dozen feet to the side and six feet below the surface. The woman felt only a wave of pressure that seemed to lift her up in the water and ease her down again. She stopped swimming and held her breath. Feeling nothing further, she resumed her lurching stroke.
The fish smelled her now, and the vibrations—erratic and sharp—signaled distress. The fish began to circle close to the surface. Its dorsal fin broke water, and its tail, thrashing back and forth, cut the glassy surface with a hiss. A series of tremors shook its body.
For the first time, the woman felt fear, though she did not know why. Adrenaline shot through her trunk and her limbs, generating a tingling heat and urging her to swim faster. She guessed that she was fifty yards from shore. She could see the line of white foam where the waves broke on the beach. She saw the lights in the house, and for a comforting moment she thought she saw someone pass by one of the windows.
The fish was about forty feet from the woman, off to the side, when it turned suddenly to the left, dropped entirely below the surface, and, with two quick thrusts of its tail, was upon her.
At first, the woman thought she had snagged her leg on a rock or a piece of floating wood. There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her right leg. She reached down to touch her foot, treading water with her left leg to keep her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left hand. She could not find her foot. She reached higher on her leg, and then she was overcome by a rush of nausea and dizziness. Her groping fingers had found a nub of bone and tattered flesh. She knew that the warm, pulsing flow over her fingers in the chill water was her own blood.
Pain and panic struck together. The woman threw her head back and screamed a guttural cry of terror.
The fish had moved away. It swallowed the woman’s limb without chewing. Bones and meat passed down the massive gullet in a single spasm. Now the fish turned again, homing on the stream of blood flushing from the woman’s femoral artery, a beacon as clear and true as a lighthouse on a cloudless night. This time the fish attacked from below. It hurtled up under the woman, jaws agape. The great conical head struck her like a locomotive, knocking her up out of the water. The jaws snapped shut around her torso, crushing bones and flesh and organs into a jelly. The fish, with the woman’s body in its mouth, smashed down on the water with a thunderous splash, spewing foam and blood and phosphorescence in a gaudy shower.
Below the surface, the fish shook its head from side to side, its serrated triangular teeth sawing through what little sinew still resisted. The corpse fell apart. The fish swallowed, then turned to continue feeding. Its brain still registered the signals of nearby prey. The water was laced with blood and shreds of flesh, and the fish could not sort signal from substance. It cut back and forth through the dissipating cloud of blood, opening and closing its mouth, seining for a random morsel. But by now, most of the pieces of the corpse had dispersed. A few sank slowly, coming to rest on the sandy bottom, where they moved lazily in the current. A few drifted away just below the surface, floating in the surge that ended in the surf.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A tightly written, tautly paced study of terror [that] makes us tingle.”—The Washington Post
“Powerful . . . [Benchley’s] story grabs you at once.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Relentless terror . . . You’d better steel yourself for this one. It isn’t a tale for the faint of heart.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Pure engrossment from the very opening . . . a fine story told with style, class, and a splendid feeling for suspense.”—Chicago Sun-Times

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Jaws 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 203 reviews.
JP_A7X More than 1 year ago
If you are a reader that enjoys adventure stories this is the book for you. Jaws is a great story about how the little town of Amity deals with a bloodthirsty great white shark. One thing the author did exceptionally well was that he was very descriptive with the scenarios occurring throughout the novel. My favorite example of the description used is the first couple lines of the novel. Benchley writes, "The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail. The mouth was open just enough to permit a rush of water over the gills. There was little other motion: an occasional correction of the apparently aimless course by the slight raising or lowering of a pectoral fin- as a bird changes direction by dipping one wing and lifting the other. The eyes were sightless in the black, and the other senses transmitted nothing extraordinary to a small, primitive brain.". This quote is shows one of the many ways Benchley uses description to paint a picture for the reader. Another thing the author did well was that he was able to make me as the reader feel what the characters were feeling. One way he particularly did this was through his excessive cursing, which really let the reader know how Officer Brody was feeling! I felt that the author did a great job writing the book, and to me he did nothing that detracted from the content of the book. Having also seen the movie, I enjoyed reading the book much better. The movie leaves out many parts mentioned in the book along with a HUGE side story having to do with Hooper that the movie completely ignores which I felt were a great addition to the story. As a whole and overall I really enjoyed the book as it was an adventure story full of action, terror, and left me wanting more. This book is appropriate for ages 16 and up as it has a lot of foul language and there are a few adult scenes that younger children should not be reading about. My advice to the reader is to sit down in a comfortable chair and start reading this fast-paced novel as you will become completely engulfed in the story of one Amity-summer-filled with terror.
PainFrame More than 1 year ago
A classic! I think this book (like the movie) will be around forever, it's still terrifying. What's interesting to me, being a fan of the movie, is the differences between the two. I won't ruin anything for you, but there is a huge part of the book which never made it into the film (probably for the best). Most fascinating was the difference in the end, including which characters live and the demise of the shark. I assume since Benchley worked on the movie that he approves of both versions. And for what it's worth, so do I. Great book! Reading Challenge: I dare you to read this and not hear the John Williams theme in your head!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I ever read , totally scared me as a kid , I have the paperback and would love to read it on the nook if it was a bit cheaper :(
JackieLvs2Read More than 1 year ago
This was some book! The beginning of the book captures you with the first shark attack. The attack was so descriptive that it felt as if i were the shark victim! I had to put my feet on the couch as to protect them from the shark! HA HA The book was very, VERY, different from the movie (except for the first shark attack). I suggest those who've watched to movie read this book! Mrs. Brody is not the goody two shoes they made her out to be in the movie! She has an affair! With whom? You'll have to read the book! ;)~ A must read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read Jaws before I saw the movie. After all these years it still holds water. The description as to the size of the shark was chilling. First there was Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Jaws is the latest sea farin' tale. If you take to the water make sure to check the surface for fins.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just finished Jaws while on vacation. While reading it I tried not to compare the book with the movie. First I will say the two are very different. The book is a good read(though I like the movie better). Not only is it about a killer shark, but about the complexities of relationships that the shark's presence in Amity brings out. All the characters are there, Chief Brody, Ellen Brody, Matt Hooper, colorful Quint, etc. If you have seen the movie, start reading this with an open mind and you will likely enjoy it like I did.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this book. When I was younger I never knew there was a book. I just believed that Jaws was just a movie. Now that I have read the book. It gives me a different look on the movie itself. I think I even prefer the book more than the movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing. Just amazing. This terrorized me more than the movie! Ahaha, i can understand why actor Robert Shaw didnt care for it. It terrorized him too, he said. I loved this novel and when i first read it, it took me 2 days just to read it. I cant stop! It drags you in and you just cant take your eyes off one word. Best novel I have ever read. <3
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it!!!
svsu More than 1 year ago
I can remember reading this book in 1975 as an 11 year old. I was too young to see the movie at the time so reading the book was my only choice. I re read this book over and over through out the years. This is the book that taught me how to read. The story line is alot different than the movie. I will probable eventually buy the ebook as it has alot of new features. Hard to beleive this book is 38 years old in 2012. I highly recommend this book to anyone 13 and older.
RushMaster More than 1 year ago
Jaws is my favorite movie, so I decided to read the book. The book was amazing, the details with the town made the story really interesting. The only part of the story I didn't like was the part about Brody's wife cheating on him with Hooper. The ending seemed slightly far fetched, but this is a very tough one to put down once it gets to the really interesting parts.
kamas716 More than 1 year ago
I love this book. It scared the heck out of me. I probably shouldn't have read it while on summer vacation at the lake when I was 13, because I was scared to go swimming that whole week. But, it's still Benchley's best suspenseful read. The only other book of his that I really liked was The Deep, as some of the others just seemed a little too corny for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All I can say is Hollywood has a lot to answer for. Book was much better. Characters are more real;less perfect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Holds up well, even after all these years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well,I already said it, Great!
bookwormmom4 More than 1 year ago
Exciting story. I recommend it to all.
Lady410 More than 1 year ago
This was totally different from the movie, it shocked and surprised me with each page and I was blown away by some scenes. I still prefer the movie but was glad to have read the book as well.
Gothic-Jedi More than 1 year ago
Jaws was one of the first Horror movies I remember watching when I was younger, and it's still the reason I don't like to swim in open bodies of water; Needless to say the movie made an impact. This book was different enough from the movie to keep me interested and fast paced enough so I did not put it down. What I loved most about this book was right in the beginning they start off with the sharks perspective of what's happening, how he senses changes in the water and is driven by instinct to swim towards it. Right from page one the action starts and continues the whole way through. I also found the towns people interesting and how they rely on the money from the summer tourists to survive all year. The book went into much more depth on this then the movie, and you really felt the weight of the decisions that the people where making. If you enjoy the movie, I definitely recommend the book.
hello More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read. A must read for anybody.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Jaws, wow. Jaws is a great and awesome book. There is so much detail. I loved this book. If you do not like blood and dead bodies, back away!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of the rare examples when the book preceeding the move was worse than the movie. Useually when a movie is based on a book, no matter how good the movie is, the book was much better. Likewise, if the MOVIE was better than the book, the book was almost always based on the movie or screen play. Like Star Wars. Jaws is, as they say, the exception that proves the rule. If you want to read about sex, infedelity, interpersonal politics, and the difference between the volumes of urine a man and woman can pee out at a single go, then this book is for you. No joke. I think it was in the first chapter, maybe even the first few pages, that the author spent a inordinate amount of the readers time describing a character's midnight juant to relieve himself, and his wife's (or lover's, I read it a long time ago) amazement at the volume of urine he produces. If reading about the urnation habits of men and women DOESN'T tickle your fancy, and you'd rather read about the hunting habits of Great White Sharks, and the inadvisable nocturnel swimming habits of lusty teenagers, then I suggest you find another read. The best thing I can say about the book Jaws, is that I don't remember being bored when I read it. What I DO remember is, that I only read it was because I had nothing else to read, and that I was very disappointed with it. The movie was a Classic Movie. The book was a Forgetable Book. Two stars for not boring me to death.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The movie was so much better. While i enjoyed the book...it was nothing compared to the movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The quaint little town of Amity is being terrorized by a force of nature unlike anything anyone has ever seen and perhaps this curse was brought upon these innocent people by something else, by something divine. The shark. The Great White Death. In a way, this book was like a murder mystery, just like all those other serial killer novels except this time, the killer is a shark. We have all the ideal characters that when put together in a boat called the Orca, are forced to work together to take this beast out. Characters such as the die heard Police Chief, Martin Brody who feels compelled to catching the source of murder in his beloved town. Matt Hooper, a cocky richboy fish expert who cares more about the beauty of the fish rather than the fact that it is a murdering act of God and who's having a secret sex affair with Brody's wife. Then there is a man known only as Quint, a mysterious complex fisherman who's skills of the open sea are the only hope to catching this monster. Three characters, each different in their own way, placed upon this boat and forced to take on a predator that will stop at nothing until it has consumed every bit of food in Amity. I think this is a great original tale with a whole bunch of interesting characters. It is not only a tale about a shark, but the story goes deeper into the lives of these characters. We find out the mayor of Amity, Larry Vaughn is involved with the mob and tensions between Brody and his wife reach to climactic limits as secrets of betrayal are slowly revealed. It makes you wonder, could a shark really affect the lives and marriage of people like the Brody's? It is nothing like the Speilberg movie, because movies are meant to entertain and when it comes to a guy like Steven Speilberg, it's all about the action packed fun. Speilberg definitly ended it with an explosive climax, while in the book it was more mellow.You can never compare a movie to the book it was based on. I think both the movie and the book were great and the next time I'm at the beach, taking a dip in the water, I'll never feel the same way again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Jaws' is a great novel.It has all the gore and action it needs to be good.I think it would be very neat if Peter Benchley wrote a fiction novel about the Loch Ness Monster.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books! A little different than the movie, but I prefer the book. It is definetely not 'mello' as some have called it. Hello! It's about a shark that's attacking a whole city! Definetely not a bed-time story.