Dean Koontz: The Quintessential American Suspense Novelist

Dean Koontz
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There are novelists, and then there are the novelists who write one bestseller after another. Dean Koontz belongs to the second category.

Over the years, his books have appeared on the prestigious New York Bestseller List on a consistent basis. His books are now available as audio books, much to the delight of his die-hard fans.

In total, his 28 novels—14 hardcovers and 14 paperbacks—have reached the numero uno position on the New York Bestseller List. This is, by no means, an ordinary achievement. However, it is interesting to know that Koontz had to wait for some years before success came to him.

Dean Koontz

Author Dean Koontz

His first hit paperback novel was written under a pen name, as was the second one. Dean Koontz became a known name with Whispers, a novel he published under his own name in 1980.

This book sold over a million copies, and after more than 10 years of writing and publishing numerous novels—many of which were written under different pen names—Dean Koontz had finally arrived.

Now there was no looking back, and he soon also achieved financial success with his first hardcover bestseller, Strangers. The earlier hits were all paperbacks that had brought him just a bit of recognition.

A compulsively readable author

A fan once said in jest that Dean Koontz’s book should come with a warning, “You would not be able to put it down once you start reading it”. The remark, although made in a lighter vein, is not completely off track. Most of Dean Koontz’s novels are indeed compulsively readable – you just cannot put them down once you start.

Throughout his career, which spans over five decades, Dean Koontz has experimented with different genres. He has written suspense thrillers, horror fiction, thrillers, and science fiction.

It all started in 1968, albeit without a bang

Dean Koontz’s first novel was Star Quest in 1968. The novel didn’t create much of an impact. However, this didn’t deter the budding novelist, and the 1970s saw Koontz writing horror fiction and suspense thrillers with great vigor.

Some of the books written during these years were published under Dean Koontz’s own name, while others were published under pseudonyms such as K. R. Dwyer, David Axton, Owen West, etc.

Dean Koontz’s pen names.

Dean Koontz wrote under pen names to avoid becoming a victim of “negative crossover” (alienation of an existing fan base and consequent failure to establish new fans). This phenomenon can occur when a writer, especially someone who is not established, experiments with different genres.

Dean Koontz has written under the following pen names: Leigh Nichols, Aaron Wolfe, David Axton, K. R. Dwyer, Richard Page, Owen West, Brian Coffey, John Hill, Anthony North, and Deanna Dower.

First success a fluke

Dean Koontz’s first tasted success with Demon Seed, a science-fiction written in 1973 under a pen name. The sales of this book picked up after the success of a movie with the same name. The book incidentally sold over 2 million copies.

However, many critics remained unimpressed and declared that Koontz’s success was a fluke. However, from 1979 onwards, Dean Koontz’s novels regularly became number one paperback bestsellers, forcing the ‘naysayers’ to be silent and for all.

The first hardcover bestseller, Strangers, gave Dean Koontz some financial stability. Since this bestseller, 13 paperbacks and 12 hardcovers written by him reached the numero uno spot on the esteemed

New York Times Bestseller List.

Dean Koontz bought the rights of his pseudonymous novels to prevent their re-publication under the pseudonym they appeared under originally. Many of these novels are now available in the author’s original name. However, some pseudonymous novels were never republished.

Koontz declared that he may revise some of his pseudonymous novels before republishing them. Till date, however, only three such novels have been revised and republished. These are: Demon Seed, Invasion, and Prison of Ice.

Most notable works

This list will obviously vary from person to person. Nevertheless, most Dean Koontz fans are likely to agree that the following are among his most notable works:

  • Demon Seed
  • Watchers
  • Intensity
  • Phantoms
  • Hideaway

All these books are available in audio format.

In 2008, David Koontz was listed as the sixth most highly-paid novelist. He shared the honors with John Grisham, who was also ranked as the sixth most-highly paid novelist at the time. The annual income of both these esteemed novelists was tipped to be $25 million.

Inspiration

David Koontz wrote a few books under the pseudonym Trixie Koontz. This name was inspired by a dog that was gifted to him by Canine Companions for Independence (CCI for short), a charitable organization to which he made substantial donations.

The two books that Koontz wrote under the pen name Trixie Koontz are Christmas is good (in 2005) and Life is good: Lessons in Joyful Living (in 2004).

It is also believed that the dog was the inspiration behind The Darkest Evening of the Year, a psychological thriller published in November 2007. In August 2009, David Koontz published a book based on the moments he had spent with his pet, Trixie. The book’s name was A Big Little Life.

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