In the late eighties, roughly ’86 or ’87, I read my first Dean Koontz novel.  The Mask, which was originally published six or so years prior under a pen name; Owen West, was the novel that introduced me to who would become my absolute favorite contemporary author.  Twenty-five years and well over 50 novels later, I’m still a rabid fan as ever.  At almost two books a year, I wait with baited breath for the newest novel to bear his name across the cover to hit bookstores.  I’ve reread some of his novels at least half-a dozen times.  After 2004’s Life Expectancy (of which I had had big dreams to write a screenplay to) I started to become disillusioned.

In the following years, starting with an abysmal retooling  of the Frankenstein story (2005’s Prodigal Son co-authored by Kevin J. Anderson, and followed by several sequels) and most recently with 2009’s Breathless Koontz was really beginning to loose me.

Dean Koontz has always been a genius of creating stories that never stayed in the mold of which they began; tales would begin in reality as a mystery and end up being science-fiction reality bending, or others science-fiction with very detailed explanations that made them more reality than fantasy (see Lightning).  Other genre-bending novels were so his forte that his publishers made him write under several pen-names for fear that “his audience would be confused”.  With no niche to be confined in, Koontz was able to weave a spell so entrhalling you never knew what you were going to end up with by the last page.

More and more of his novels became so fast and the pace was that of a roller-coaster ride, he perfected the whole “wrap up everything in the last several pages” to the point that I would sit still at the end of the novels and say ” holy crap where did that come from?” But it always worked, he was just that good, and upon rereading his novels, noticed that he had laid the groundwork for that ending throughout the lattice of the novel.   Yet recently he’s lost some of his touch.  His last several novels have ended in a oddly – shaped bow of “huh” and “really”?  More and more he has been using varieties of  Dues Ex-machina which are just plodding and not original.

There is also a strange … change of outlook from Koontz’s recent stories.  There has always been staples of his writing that annoy many people but, again, I just think he pulls off so very well.  Woman are always strong willed and fearless, his men are chivalrous and his children characters are intelligent, brave, stalwart and forces to be reckoned with.  Oh yeah, and there is always a dog.  This is all reminiscent of a  rough childhood where his father was a schizophrenic alcoholic (hence the eventual dropping of the R in Dean R. Koontz, R standing for Ray his fathers name) and his mother was a very strong presence in his life and also from his view that children are not weak.  Oh, and he loves golden retrievers and feels that dogs have strong souls.  Did I mention the dogs?

Now me, when I watch films and read novels I love characters that are real.  I need the characters to have faults and to be misguided or rash at times; to be real; to have some darkness in their souls.  Koontz’s characters are either angels or demons, they are rarely (if ever) a little of both.  The good guys are pure angelic clouds, they are brave, the love with all their hearts, people love them; they are righteous beings.  The bad guys are the dredge of society, they are pure psychotic, demon-blooded rot and do not, ever deserve pity.  And you know what; I’ve never cared!  Dean Koontz can write characters that you love to love and love to hate like nobodies business.  They jump off the page with humor and heart and viciousness that even in the most recent novels that I have been dismayed with; they are all the more disappointing due to the wonderful characters that he creates and writes that I fall in love with.

I must return to my point of Koontz’s change of outlook.  All of his stories in the past have the hero coming out on top and virtuous.  The point of his stories being hope and vigilance that good overcomes evil.  and I’m good with that.  However recently they have become almost candy coated to make that hope go down easier.  The evils in his stories are that of bridging the gap of YA and adult novels.  It’s almost like he’s had a religious conversion and is trying to write his old stuff with a message of biblical or religious overtones.  If I read another Koontz novel that introduces the ideology of CK Chesterton I’m going to scream!  That’s becoming the problem, Dean Koontz isn’t creating wondrous characters in exciting stories any longer; he just espousing his beliefs through his novels.  If they have always been there, they were hidden, slyly being unearthed by the reader through the undercarriage of the plot and characters actions.  Now they are blatant and mine as well be bullet pointed for easy reading.

Now I’m sitting reading the latest from Dean Koontz; What The Night Knows, a very good ghost story.  One that I am enjoying very much.  I’ve got 30 pages to go, the ending is relentless in it’s action at this point.  I needed to take this break to write my feelings about Koontz and my 20 some year love affair with his work, before finishing this new novel, why?  Because I’m so afraid something is going to happen in these final pages that I will scream and shout “No Dean, you didn’t !!”

Once I finish it, I will ponder for a few days as I start a new book, and return with a full review.  I return now to my final 30 pages of What the Night Knows by Dean Koontz … here’s crossing my fingers to an exciting end to a freshly exciting and well written novel by one of my favorite authors.