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The Wordsmith

March 13, 2013

KoontzWatchers6

This just in! My good friend and colleague, Craig Schindler has kicked off his own blog. Now the other half of our intrepid team will be posting artwork and comments about his own creative endeavors. Be sure to check it out at craigschindler.wordpress.com.

In a recent episode of Castle, the fictional crime-solving writer Richard Castle (played by the Nathan Fillion) tells of how reading Casino Royal by Ian Fleming when he was a boy made him want to become a writer. I’ve heard other, real life, writers state that specific books and, or, writers made them feel the same way. Dean Koontz and a trio of his books were my trigger.

Back during the mid-1990s, I worked out of my home and turned line art into digital files. It was as lucrative as it was arduous. It required long hours in front of the computer screen, sometimes working through the entire night to meet a deadline. To help pass the time, I began listening to audio books. Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove was the very first audio book I ever listened to. At the time, there was an audio book library in town. Lonesome Dove was so big, it came in two volumes, and each binder was loaded with, what seemed like, eighty cassette tapes and weighed five pounds. After that first experience, I fell head over heels in like with the medium (I try to reserve the word “love” for my God, wife, children, family, close friends, Kate Beckinsale and George Clooney).

Of all the books I listened to back then, only Lonesome Dove and three other books stand out in my memory. Dean Koontz wrote the other three. Koontz magically transported me to Twilight Zone-ian worlds of wonder in Watchers, Tick Tock and Lightning.

Watchers made me an instant and lifelong fan of the author. The story is about a man named Travis Cornell who comes across a stray golden retriever while on a hike. He brings the dog home with him and that decision plunges him into a thrilling and terrifying adventure, after which his life is never the same. I adore this book and every time I meet someone who owns a golden retriever, I ask that person if he or she has ever read Dean Koontz. Interestingly, at the time Watchers was written, Dean Koontz did not own a dog. As of this writing, he has owned two golden retrievers. His first golden was an amazing dog named Trixie. If you ever get a chance to read or listen to A Big Little Life: A Memoir of a Joyful Dog Named Trixie, you’ll marvel at the fact that the writer of Watchers wound up with a special golden of his very own.

Tick Tock is a horror story told in the raucous style of a screwball comedy. Detective novelist Tommy (Tofu Boy) Phan, a Vietnamese/American, meets a beautiful blonde named Deliverance Payne (think Katherine Hepburn from Bringing Up Baby mixed with Cameron Diaz from Kill Bill). Together they must stay one step ahead of a genuinely horrifying monster that wants nothing less than their complete and total destruction.

I don’t know what to say about Lightening that won’t come off as a spoiler for anyone who knows nothing about this novel. Laura Shane was born during a horrendous lightening storm. As she goes through life, there is a mysterious man who appears, every once in awhile and out of nowhere, to save her from harm or certain death, as if he is some kind of flesh and blood guardian angel. As time goes on, she and her family move inexorably toward events that are so momentous and deadly that the reader has to ask—can even Laura’s mysterious benefactor be able to save her?”

Unlike his contemporaries, Stephen King and George R. R. Martin, I can count on Mr. Koontz not getting me emotionally invested in one of his main characters and then viciously killing him or her. I can trust this storyteller to take me through all the emotions and yet get me safely through to the other side of his tale without an enormous dog eating his little boy, or arrow-blasting a handsome young man who would make a great and just king. You might not want or care for that kind of safe passage, and prefer tales dipped in only the darkest chaotic blackness, but I do not. I cling to hope, and so does Dean Koontz. (I typically avoid the nightly news for just this reason.)

I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Koontz. Unfortunately it was only once. It was years ago, during a book signing. I was one of a bazillion fans who lined up for hours to meet him and have a book signed. I found him to be genuinely nice and gracious. I bet that if by some Biblical-level miracle he should ever stumble upon this blog, I can imagine him looking up from his computer screen and saying to his wife, “Hey, Gerta, check it out. Some obscure Portuguese guy who didn’t start blogging until he was fifty-five years old is giving me a shout out!”

Dean Koontz is a wordsmith of the highest order. When he writes about a dark, rain-soaked night, he wields metaphors and analogies that are so effective that the pages are soaking wet. I’ve enjoyed everything I have ever read written by Mr. Koontz, but so far no book has toppled Watchers, Tick Tock and Lightening off the first, second and third place platforms.

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3 Comments
  1. I must say that I have very fond memories of Watchers. I’m surprised that Koontz didn’t have a dog at the time, though: I’d always just assumed that Watchers had been inspired by his own pets.

    Having read this post, I’m tempted to give Lightning a try. Its concept sounds truly intriguing

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