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Why is Dean Koontz Loathed in Such Heinous Fashion?


Dean Koontz

I’ve heard the extremely prolific Dean Koontz, author of roughly 100 works (plenty of which were number one sellers) of fiction, bashed to hell and back over the last few years. I’ve heard him labeled a hack, lazy, a poor man’s Stephen King, a dime-shelf writer. You name it, I’ve heard it, and to be completely honest I’m mystified by this strange and seemingly odious stigma (it’s not deserved I cry!) that looms over Koontz’s name. For my buck, Dean is one of the most balanced authors in the business.

The man does his research, and checks his facts. The man has built a diverse body of work that covers an expansive thematic landscape. He works endlessly to bring terror to readers sans any significant break. He’s capable of being extremely detailed, without running far too long in the tooth, and when he wants to, he can throw some seriously malicious bombs in your face. He’s not only a veteran of his craft, but he’s a very seasoned and refined veteran of his craft.

I can understand the constant comparisons to King. In fact, as a child I often considered him a B-rated King myself. That wasn’t because his fiction was bad, it was because I was wholly consumed by King’s writing and anything else put in front of me was, in my head, just an impostor; a pretender, a wannabe who yearned to simply nip at the heels of Kings unrivalled talent. As I grew, my narrow-mindedness widened and I realized there is a wealth of fetching authors out there, and Dean Koontz is certainly one of the few who accompany Stephen King in his position of supremacy.

I fear many have cast disregard in Koontz’s direction due to a bad reading experience. Perhaps you picked up the first book of Koontz’s ongoing Frankenstein tale and found it to be simply bland. Maybe a single experience is enough to completely solidify a negative thought process when approaching one of the man’s novels. I know many of such characteristic, and at one point in life I was a fairly fickle fellow myself. But don’t do Koontz that kind of injustice: after nearly 45 years in the business, he’s earned a second chance.

Phantoms

To save you a little time in fact, I’ll even toss you a few recommendations that worked wonders to pull me to the far side of the darkest rivers of the heart. The Funhouse was an amazing read that manifested a tangible sense of terrific 1980’s grindhouse films. The Servants of Twilight is a profoundly unsettling piece of work that should stab at the heart of any parent and keep readers on the edge of their seat. Twilight Eyes makes a successful run through the corridors of the supernatural, Watchers boasts a gnarly monster who anchors a well-crafted tale. Night Chills is remarkably chilling, The Taken is a jarring tale of invasion, which feels as though it was written to serve as a direct spinoff off Phantoms, Dean’s true masterpiece.

Dean’s produced some shockers. He doesn’t fear the paranormal, he doesn’t fear the monsters, he doesn’t fear electronic territory; he doesn’t fear the plausible nature of the demented man. He’s never limited himself to a single niche of horror. This is one damn versatile author, who may not hit a homerun every time he steps to bat, but he’s got a track record that shines more often than not. It’s time the masses recognized an elite talent.

If you’re completely foreign to Dean’s work, change that immediately. If you’ve given him a go, and found him not to be of your liking I can only reiterate, and implore you to take one more walk through the intricate passages of this man’s imagination!

For a few other killer Koontz books, look into the following:

Strangers

Lightning

Hideaway

Mr. Murder

Winter Moon

Intensity

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About Matt Molgaard (1639 Articles)
Author of the novella Say No to Drugs, writer for Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

29 Comments on Why is Dean Koontz Loathed in Such Heinous Fashion?

  1. Dean Koontz is one of suspense fiction of all time.

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  2. Never read one of his books.
    What would you recommend for starters?

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  3. Well said, sir. I heartily agree. Mr. Koontz has remained a favorite author of mine since the early 80s. My other favorites of his are “From the Corner of His Eye” and “Life Expectancy”, among others. Thanks for this post!

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    • Old Fart Koontz Fan // April 5, 2016 at 6:11 pm // Reply

      Phantoms was my favorite for many years, until From the Corner of His Eye . . . I don’t think he has topped that one yet. Dark, rich, terrifying – and strangely enough, contemplative & hopeful. I think this is the book that marks the shift in writing style that many readers complain about – the “happy ending,” so to speak. From this book forward, most readers seem to either love him or hate him; very few hang in the grey area in between. This old broad still loves him.

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  4. Albert Martin // April 23, 2016 at 7:12 pm // Reply

    I think the issue for most readers is that Koontz does not stick to one genera he writes sci-fi, suspense, drama, horror and just about anything else. Publishers always bill his books as suspense or horror yet that may not be what you get. No matter what it will be well written; however if you are looking for the same formula each time you will be disappointed. Many of his latest works are humorous instead of scary and honestly he has found an audience for this material; however many of his hard core fans get disappointed when they want a good thriller and get Odd Thomas. I am equally sure if all you read was Odd Thomas or Life Expectancy and then picked up The Bad Place or The Corner Of his Eye you would be shocked that this humorous author scared the crap out of you.
    Keep in mind that like other authors of his generation he wrote different types of novels under many different names. He really has not changed much over the years you are just getting everything he writes under one name. This includes a number of novels re-released under the Dean Koontz name.
    In the end if you enjoy a good read no matter the genera you will like most of Koontz’s novels. I loved Odd Thomas, Fear the Night, and Tic Toc as much as Strangers, Watchers or Lighting. They are just very different types of novels.
    I have not liked all his novels, The City, however I have found many that are among the best I have ever read.

    Bottom line do not give up on Dean based on one or two novels. He is a great author and you might just miss out on something special.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Old Fart Koontz Fan // April 23, 2016 at 11:22 pm // Reply

    Well-put. Personally, I do think his overall style has changed over the years, but not necessarily for better or worse. (I loved his work 30 years ago, and still do. I just think that he continually pushes the envelope, inventing stories & characters from one extreme to the other, and everything in between.) I agree with you 100% on the rest of your comments. You are absolutely right that his books simply do not fit into a single genre; you just can’t compare an Odd Thomas story to Phantoms, Watchers, From the Corner of His Eye, etc. I have heard it said that Koontz has a genre all to himself, and I can’t disagree. I have my favorites, of course, but like you, I’ve enjoyed them all.
    I remain,
    An Old Fart Koontz Fan

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  6. My first experience with Koontz was not his fiction, but his book Writing Popular Fiction published way back in 1972. Great book, and one that helped me develop my own style.

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  7. mrspankhurst // May 29, 2016 at 8:40 am // Reply

    I still look forward to the Koontz books but his preoccupation with religion and big government are seriously compromising my enjoyment of his works. He used at least to vary these twin obsessions with a concern about big business.

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  8. His ‘Odd Thomas’ book revealed the secret of Agatha Christie’s finest novel, ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ in the most casual fashion (the very third page, I think), the protagonist musing and dishing out the most vital element of the Christie novel. That gave me enough reason to hate the book and the writer. I have liked Koontz’s ‘Intensity’ and ‘Dragon Tears’ however. May be these mistakes come from churning out too much fiction over the years – quantity over quality, but that’s the mark of a hack too.

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    • You are correct….I just found out. I have not read the said Agatha Christie novel though I have read a lot of her other books; that particular “secret” is no longer a secret..that is because the Roger Ackroyd book was quite popular in my school in Bhubaneswar among us 8th graders who had just started reading Christie and I am talking the mid-80’s….and the reason behind its popularity was that the narrator turns out to be the murderer and THAT secret, which I have just given away, had spread like wild fire in our school and everyone read it simply because of that being fully aware of it; but it sucks that a modern-day author like Koontz who CANNOT hold a candle from any angle or length, to Christie, has to stoop to such gimmickry.

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  9. The Voice of the Night was the first book of his I read. I think I was about 12 or 13, from then on I was hooked and refused to read anything by anyone else. Strangers is still my #1 favorite of all time! For me, no one ever has or ever will grip me the way his writing does. Forever a Dean fan!

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  10. I will hate Dean Koontz until the day ever dawns when he publishes the third part of the Moonlight Bay trilogy. With Fear Nothing and Seize the Night being two of the most intense and ambitious novels he has written, to leave us hanging on the third book for almost 20 years is just not on. Until he finally (if ever) releases the third book, he can go forth and multiply.

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  11. I started reading his books long ago, and loved them, Fear Nothing, From the corner of his eye, The first bunch of Odd Thomas books, and a lot of the older ones. But as I kept reading them it felt like way too many started to blend together in my head. I remember feeling like most of his books were about some kind of experiment/mutation gone wrong and turning into some kind of horrible monster/thing.
    Then on top of that it seemed like he over described a lot of things, like he’d take an entire page to tell us about a table.
    I’m not sure which one it was, but I read a recent book of his a few years ago and it felt like he didn’t put anything into it, like someone forced him to write it (May have been his 3rd Frankenstein book, as it’s the last of that series I have), and there were probably two more around that time that made me feel similar and finally put me off to reading his stuff.

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  12. Every book he writes starts off with a great premise that sucks me into the story,. And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. About halfway through the manuscript( Phantoms is the perfect example of this), he stops…and thinks to himself..”You know…all the morons that buy my books think they’re just awesome, so why bother? I’ll just fartpoop some dumbass ending into this piece of shit so I can chuckle all the way to the bank.”

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  13. Dean has written quite a few bombs but he’s also written some of my all-time favorite books. I’ll always hold a soft spot in my heart for him. His books helped me through some tough times as a teen/young adult and I’ll forever be grateful for that.

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  14. I think the “hate” stems from a dose of envy. Koontz is a prolific author who has paved the way for commercial fiction perhaps moreso than his larger competition, Mr. King. I’ve much admiration for him…this, even though I wasn’t particularly enthralled with some of his later Patterson-esque thrillers (The Husband, for ex.). His early stuff though — lots of fun (e.g., The Face of Fear, Phantoms, Lightning, Watchers).

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  15. Raimo Kangasniemi // September 25, 2016 at 4:17 am // Reply

    My problem is that describing story behind one of his novels (I don’t recall the title, but in hermaphrodite made itself pregnant through it’s own sperm, producing children of which one turned out to be a serial killer) he casually revealed that he fears and loathes poor people after a very bad stint as a teacher in some poverty stricken area’s school, the kids making his life hell and this experience led to him writing about degeneration, turning those teacher tormenting kids into monsters in his imagination, again and again, in his own claim influencing that particular book decades after his experiences. Every time I intend to pick up one of his books memory of that comes back and I leave him with his fear of the poor and destitute.

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    • Old Fart Koontz Fan // September 28, 2016 at 5:21 pm // Reply

      I never interpreted Dean’s recollection of his teaching days as “a fear of the poor & destitute” . . . especially since, throughput his childhood, If he WAS poor & destitute. If he has fears in this regard, they are likely born not only out of his frustrations as a teacher, but also his own childhood experience. If you know any teachers who work in underprivileged districts, ask them about their frustrations. My daughter teaches in a Title I school, by choice. She loves her little “monsters,” but is constantly frustrated by the behavior problems that are so prevalent in these schools. She spends valuable teaching time just keeping her class under control, and much of her personal time trying to contact parents, documenting issues in order to get assistance for her students, and researching strategies to help each one of them, so that she CAN actually teach them. It is not poverty itself that creates “student-monsters,” but the circumstances that often surround it: absentee &/or incarcerated parents, addiction, violence, etc. It takes a particular kind of strength that most of us lack, to take on these classes and Dean obviously wasn’t one of them. But he IS one hell of an author. If you choose not to read his books because something he said years ago rubbed you the wrong way, that’s your prerogative – but it’s your loss. He has been, for many years, my favorite author.

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  16. Michelle Muto // October 29, 2016 at 9:19 pm // Reply

    I love Dean Koontz. His words are often poetry, his descriptions spot-on without going on like a laundry list. No, he’s not Stephen King. And while I love King, I wish people would stop comparing every horror author to him. Koontz isn’t a 2nd rate King. He’s a 1st rate Koontz. I don’t get the vitriol either. Haters gonna hate? Sad. Dean is one of my go-tos, my favorites. Good article.

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  17. Chris Phillips // November 8, 2016 at 8:17 pm // Reply

    I don’t like that between four different books, I have found multiple instances of the same EXACT descriptive paragraph. So many of his books are similar in my opinion and I feel like if I’ve found duplicate paragraphs more than once, there are many ther instances. Seems like a real hack move. A quick way to fill pages and cash in.

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  18. Dean Koontz is NOT original…..his novels seem like they were “inspired” from somewhere…His novel “Shattered” seemed like Richard Matheson’s/Steven Spielberg movie “Duel”. Odd Thomas is a clever reworking of “I see dead people” thingy from “6th sense”. His “Mr.Murder” is of course a sci-fi-esque modulation of King’s “The Dark Half” and “Secret Window”. I like his “Intensity” though and appears that this novel in turn was the unofficial source of French movie “High tension”.

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  19. Great article. I think Dean Koontz is one of the best out there. I agree that it can be tough for horror writers to be constantly compared to Stephen King, but I can see why. Both Dean Koontz and Stephen King were huge influences on me. Some of my favorite Dean Koontz books: Strangers, Phantoms, The Bad Place, Cold Fire, Watchers (terrible movie made from the book), Winter Moon, Hideaway (another poor movie made from his book), The House of Thunder, and Intensity (finally a decent movie made from his work!).

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  20. His short novel STRANGE HIGHWAYS is his best work by far.He also wrote some brilliant short fiction particulary the excellent novella TWILIGHT OF THE DAWN one of the best stoeies of loss and faith.

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  21. I have to agree. His writing is very simple and boring. He is polar opposite of Clive Barker. I have found that Koontz fans don’t like Barker. They find Barker too strange and hard to follow. I admit, Barker’s prose is quite deep and very imaginative and that is why I love Barker. Barker takes the time to paint vibrant scenes and characters, so complex you have to slow down and absorb what you are reading. Now, I have read several stories by Koontz and the last one I read was so terrible, I do not think I will read another. That novel was,”The darkest Evening of the Year”. The story was predictable and drab. The dialog was even worse. The conversations in the story made a “Dick and Jane” children’s book seem complex. Has anyone ever read this book? It seemed like a rush job to meet a deadline, but then again, all his stories lack imagination and strong characters.

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  22. Some of his books are fine, and they leave a fine aftertaste. But some, like the frankenstien books are quite terrible.

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