It says a lot about Carl Djerassi that his first venture into literature was as an act of revenge. It was 1983; he was 60, an eminent professor of chemistry at Stanford University, famous for his successful synthesis, in 1951, of norethindrone, the first oral contraceptive. And he was in love with the woman who would become his third wife – Diane Middlebrook, the biographer, poet, and fellow Stanford professor. But, after several years together, she had fallen in love with someone else.
When he found out, Djerassi was distraught. “Like any man, I thought, ‘Who is this other person?’” he says now. “It turned out that he was a professor of literature. So I decided, ‘Well, I’m going to show her.’ And I started writing.”