A Missed Opportunity


I don’t love a lot of Dean Koontz’s books. Surprisingly, I hate most of his characters. I find them underdeveloped and Jane Hawk, makes me want to strangle somebody. While I have trouble connecting to most of Koontz’s characters, his female characters are a real stumbling block for me. However, I think he missed a golden opportunity for a series.

I loved the book What the Night Knows. I loved the premise and the ending was perfect to set up a sequel or six with the common thread being the supernatural bad guy. As a writer, I understand not doing a sequel. As a reader, it kills me that he didn’t pursue this further.

Furthermore, I thought the character John Calvino while suffering from some of Koontz’s usual flaws was one of his better developed characters. What do I mean by this? Koontz has this annoying habit of making all of his characters “too independent.” By this I mean, the reader spends half the book thinking “If you would just f***king talk to someone about this, you’d be better off.” Calvino like Odd Thomas does this too often for his own good.

His female characters suffer from Koontz’s age. Koontz was born at the end of WWII. He spent his formative years growing up in the “Seen not Heard era.” As a result, his female characters are all flat one dimensional morons. This includes Jane Hawk who makes me want to strangle her. Of all the series (es) I could see Koontz writing successfully one that has a female lead isn’t among them. However, I know people who love Jane Hawk, so I am probably the exception not the rule.

While he isn’t my favorite writer, I do admire him a great deal. Koontz has done what most writers can only dream of doing. His first novel was published in 1968. He’s had a variety of pen names over the years and he is a multi-genre author who continues to innovate his own writing style. And at 73, he’s still writing new novels. While Koontz is referred to as a horror novelist and is active in the Horror Writers Association, he is not actually a horror novelist. Most of his novels are “crime thrillers” with elements of horror… What the Night Knows, is a fine example of this – it is a “crime novel” where the bad guy is a demon that the main character has killed in the past. However, this demon is still a serial killer. Whereas the other book of his I read recently and loved 77 Shadow Street is futuristic science fiction making it neither horror or crime thriller. And the book that got me started reading Koontz Sole Survivor is about a mysterious plane crash that kills the wife and daughter of a reporter that makes it his mission to discover the truth is more drama than crime thriller, science fiction, or horror (although there are elements of each of these in it).

Because I do occasionally fall in love with one of Dean Koontz’s books, I continue to attempt to read them all, looking for that gem that will grip me and not let go, even after I’ve finished the book. This means, I have a love/hate relationship with Koontz’s works. Sometimes, I’m hooked from the beginning like I was with What the Night knows, Sole Survivor, and 77 Shadow Street and sometimes 15 chapters in, I’m wondering why I’m still making the attempt.

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