"Death was driving an emerald green Lexus"

-- Dean Koontz, Winter Moon


Dean Raymond Koontz (1945 - ) is an American author who is probably most famous for his thriller novels. Those novels are listed in another writeup in this node (and at the time of this writing that list is up to date, accurate, and thorough), so I won't do it here. I will add, however, that most of those books listed there have been on The New York Times Bestseller List, seven of which hit number one. His works are often categorized as horror, and he is usually clumped in with authors like Stephen King, Peter Straub and John Saul (not that that's a bad thing), but I find that his books are not horror stories as such, but lean more toward the sci-fi/thriller genre. The occasional monster or genetic DNA glop creature makes an appearance, but the stories are much more focused toward the suspense aspect, as opposed to the blood and gore aspect.

Now, usually when I do a write-up a person, the first few sentences follow a specific pattern. First is the person's full name, followed by birth and death dates (if applicable), followed immediately by aliases, if any. As you can see, I did not list aliases, however there are many. I didn't follow my pattern because Dean Koontz has enough aliases to make the reader's eyes glaze over in the first sentence. So instead, I waited until now to make your eyes glaze over with his pseudonyms:

  • David Axton
  • Leonard Chris
  • Brian Coffey
  • Deanna Dwyer
  • K.R. Dwyer
  • John Hill
  • Leigh Nichols
  • Anthony North
  • Richard Paige
  • Owen West
  • Aaron Wolfe

In my opinion, some of his best works were written under his own name. He also used his middle initial for a while: Dean R. Koontz. There are rumors of other pseudonyms, primarily used for some pornographic novels, but these rumors have not been confirmed.

Koontz was an only child who was born and raised in Pennsylvania. His father was mentally unstable and that condition was exacerbated by alcoholism. In order to cope with an abusive and unhappy home life he lost himself in books. His parents insisted that reading books were a waste of money, brains and time, but he kept reading, and soon he began writing. At the age of eight, he began writing and selling original fiction, mostly to relatives, for a nickel a piece. At the age of twelve, he won a national essay contest on "What Being an American Means To Me."

He began writing regularly while attending Shippensburg State College in Pennsylvania after he won a fiction competition. While he was still in college he wrote his first professional piece, entitled "Kittens". ("Kittens" is available in The Dean Koontz Companion, which is a biographical work about him). Right out of college, he started working in the Appalachian Poverty Program to counsel underprivileged children. During this period, he became determined to be successful as a writer. He got another job teaching English near Harrisburg, PA, but after about a year so or so his lovely wife, Gerda, offered to support him for five years so he could dedicate himself to writing full time. Needless to say, that paid off, and by the end of those five years, Gerda had quit her full time job in order to handle the business end of Dean's thriving writing career.

Some of Koontz's most popular novels are Lightning, Watchers and Strangers. My personal favorites are Dragon's Tears, The Bad Place and Lightning. The characterizations of his heroes and heroines are not the usual tragic protagonists, who are usually all doom and gloom. All of them are upbeat, likable characters who happen to get trapped in circumstances beyond their control. Most often the novel takes place during a couple of days, or a week in the main character's life, but in some, such as Lightning and From the Corner of His Eye, the novel encompasses a character's entire life, or at least the first few decades of it.

While it should be noted that Koontz writes exceptional books, they are almost always miserable failures when transferred to film. Phantoms, one of my favorite books ever, was an abominable movie. Same with Watchers - the main character, who was a likable adult in the book was portrayed by a young Corey Haim. I refrained from jamming icepicks into my eyeballs, but it was a tough battle. At least they didn't transform Einstein (a Labrador Retreiver) into a shaggy-haired mutt like they usually do to dogs in books. (Kudos Hollywood). Now I'm not the kind of guy who automatically dislikes a movie based on a book - I always try to enjoy a story in its medium - but these movies truly sucked. That's okay though, we still love ya Dean!

Finally, I should mention one of my other internet haunts. There is a Usenet newsgroup dedicated to Dean Koontz, called alt.books.dean-koontz. It's filled with very friendly people, so if you're ever in the neighborhood, you should stop by.

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