Dean Koontz Biography


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, Dean Ray Koontz had an abusive father and an impoverished and rigorous childhood. Nevertheless, he graduated from Shippensburg State College. While a college senior, he won the prestigious Atlantic Monthly Creative Writing Award for his short story “Kittens,” a victory that pushed him to continue writing. After college, he worked with the Appalachian Poverty Program and as an English teacher at Mechanicsburg High School, but after several years, his high school sweetheart and wife, Gerda, offered to support him for five years to determine whether he could make it as a writer. By the end of the five years, she had quit her job to handle the business end of Koontz’s writing, although it was not until fifteen years had passed that they were both fully supported by his writing.

Koontz’s first novel, written while he was a teacher, was Star Quest, a science-fiction novel published as part of an Ace Double in 1968. In the 1970’s, he began writing and publishing works of horror and mainstream literature, many of which appeared under a variety of pseudonyms. His novella Beastchild received a Hugo Award nomination in 1971. Koontz used pseudonyms to avoid negative crossover, a phenomenon wherein work in a new genre alienates existing fans and fails to create new ones. He divided his works in different genres among a number of pen names: David Axton (adventure), Brian Coffey (short...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Dean Ray Koontz is one of the United States’ most prolific modern authors. He was born on July 9, 1945, the only child of Ray and Florence (called Molly) Koontz. He was raised in Everett, Pennsylvania. From his fifth year, the family lived in a four-room shack built by his grandfather. It had a leaky, tar-paper roof and no indoor plumbing until Koontz was nine or ten. His childhood was not happy, as his father was an alcoholic and a philanderer, did not have regular work, was given to violence, and was in later life diagnosed as a borderline schizophrenic. As a result, there was a daily worry as to whether there would be somewhere to live or enough food to eat; books were not a priority. (In later life, though, Koontz would accumulate a vast library.) His mother, a talented musician, tried to protect him. She died at the age of fifty-three. Despite these problems, Koontz supported his father for the last fifteen years of his life before he died at age eighty-one. Koontz’s early experiences gave him the insight to write about his troubled characters with sympathy, many of them having been troubled children. Often his novels, whatever the genre, deal with real issues like the ones he faced.{$S[A]Axton, David;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Coffey, Brian;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Dwyer, Deanna;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Dwyer, K. R.;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Hill, John;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Nichols, Leigh;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]North, Anthony;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Page, Richard;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]West, Owen;Koontz, Dean R.}{$S[A]Wolfe, Aaron;Koontz, Dean R.}

Because of his home life, Koontz became a voracious reader and includes Theodore Sturgeon, Charles Dickens, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury among his favorite authors. As three of these are science-fiction writers, it is not surprising that his earliest attempts at writing were science fiction. At a young age, he created books by writing stories on tablet paper, drawing the covers, and stapling them together. The results were sold to family members.

Koontz was educated at Shippensburg State College, gaining a B.A. in English in 1966. That year he married Gerda Cerra, whom he had met at high school in Bedford, Pennsylvania, four years earlier. The same year, at the age of twenty, he won a short-story competition run by The Atlantic Monthly for a story called “The Kittens.”

After graduating from college, he worked as a teacher and counselor for the Appalachian Poverty Program...

(The entire section is 1006 words.)