There was a time when Pat Conroy and Dean Koontz were two of my favorite authors. I loved everything they wrote. Over time that love withered and died. What happened?
Let’s start with Conroy. I loved the fact that he grew up in the lush, steamy low country of South Carolina as much as anything else. The South Carolina coast is my favorite place on earth, and Pat Conroy wrote about it with a passion and intensity that sometimes made my pulse race. His early books combined powerful characters with wonderful plots. The writing had a lyrical quality that was pleasing to my ear. My first inkling that something was amiss came when I read Beach Music. I had trouble getting through it. Conroy had fallen in love with his own writing. The restrained lyricism had been replaced by full-blown, endless descriptive writing that made my eyes glaze over. The story occasionally re-emerged, gasping for breath, in the form of character dialogue. It seems that Pat had decided to abandon his genre in favor of literary fiction. That’s fine if you like literary fiction. I don’t.
His novel, South of Broad, was even harder for me. I couldn’t finish it.
My problem with Koontz is similar in that, like Conroy, he is a superb wordsmith who knows how to turn a phrase and sometimes sacrifices the narrative in favor of pretty writing. As I read more of Dean’s work I began to notice his unfortunate tendency to intrude on the story with flowery, excessive scenes that had a stream-of-consciousness feel and seemed faintly ridiculous in a suspense novel. I did enjoy his Odd Thomas series, but that enjoyment was marred by elements of moralizing as well as some deus ex machina plot contrivances that were disappointing.
Don’t misunderstand – I have immense respect and admiration for the talent and achievements of both these authors. I just don’t love them anymore.