Amazingly prolific and relentlessly suspenseful, Dean Koontz can be counted on for chilling, sometimes gory stories that occasionally overlap genres. His novels can jump from straightforward crime to sci-fi to horror, but the one thing he's consistent about is delivering nail-biting yarns that have kept fans reading for more than three decades.
He is one of the most recognized, read, and loved suspense writers of the 20th century. His imagination is a veritable factory of nightmares, conjuring twisted tales of psychological complexity. He even has a fan in Stephen King. For decades, Dean Koontz's name has been synonymous with terror, and his novels never fail to quicken the pulse and set hearts pounding.
Koontz has a lifelong love of writing that led him to spend much of his free time as an adult furiously cultivating his style and voice. However, it was only after his wife Gerda made him an offer he couldn't refuse while he was teaching English at a high school outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that he had a real opportunity to make a living with his avocation. Gerda agreed to support Dean for five years, during which time he could try to get his writing career off the ground. Little did she know that by the end of that five years she would be leaving her own job to handle the financial end of her husband's massively successful writing career.
Koontz first burst into the literary world with 1970's Beastchild, a science fiction novel that appealed to genre fans with its descriptions of aliens and otherworldly wars but also mined deeper themes of friendship and the breakdown of communication. Although it is not usually ranked among his classics, Beastchild provided the first inkling of Koontz's talent for populating even the most fantastical tale with fully human characters. Even at his goriest or most terrifying, he always allows room for redemption.
This complexity is what makes Koontz's work so popular with readers. He has a true gift for tempering horror with humanity, grotesqueries with lyricism. He also has a knack for genre-hopping, inventing Hitchcockian romantic mysteries, crime dramas, supernatural thrillers, science fiction, and psychological suspense with equal deftness and imagination. Perhaps The Times (London) puts it best: "Dean Koontz is not just a master of our darkest dreams, but also a literary juggler."
Good To Know
Shortly after graduating from college, Koontz took a job with the Appalachian Poverty Program where he would tutor and counsel underprivileged kids. However, after finding out that the last person who held his job had been beaten up and hospitalized by some of these kids, Koontz was more motivated than ever to get his writing career going.
When Koontz was a senior in college, he won the Atlantic Monthly fiction competition.
Koontz and Kevin Anderson's novel Frankenstein: The Prodigal Son was slotted to become a television series produced by Martin Scorsese. However, when the pilot failed to sell, the USA Network aired it as a TV movie in 2004. By that time Koontz had removed his name from the project.
Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Koontz:
"My wife, Gerda, and I took seven years of private ballroom dancing lessons, twice a week, ninety minutes each time. After we had gotten good at everything from swing to the foxtrot, we not only stopped taking lessons, but also stopped going dancing. Learning had been great fun; but for both of us, going out for an evening of dancing proved far less exhilarating than the learning. We both have a low boredom threshold. Now we dance at a wedding or other celebration perhaps once a year, and we're creaky."
"On my desk is a photograph given to me by my mother after Gerda and I were engaged to be married. It shows 23 children at a birthday party. It is neither my party nor Gerda's. I am three years old, going on four. Gerda is three. In that crowd of kids, we are sitting directly across a table from each other. I'm grinning, as if I already know she's my destiny, and Gerda has a serious expression, as if she's worried that I might be her destiny. We never met again until I was a senior in high school and she was a junior. We've been trying to make up for that lost time ever since.
"Gerda and I worked so much for the first two decades of our marriage that we never took a real vacation until our twentieth wedding anniversary. Then we went on a cruise, booking a first-class suite, sparing no expense. For more than half the cruise, the ship was caught in a hurricane. The open decks were closed because waves would have washed passengers overboard. About 90% of the passengers spent day after day in their cabins, projectile vomiting. We discovered that neither of us gets seasick. We had the showrooms, the casino, and the buffets virtually to ourselves. Because the crew had no one to serve, our service was exemplary. The ship dared not try to put into the scheduled ports; it was safer on the open sea. The big windows of the main bar presented a spectacular view of massive waves and lightning strikes that stabbed the sea by the score. Very romantic. We had a grand time.