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The Catholic literary vision of Dean Koontz

October 24, 2018

A Masterpiece of Creation

This brings us to one of the most wildly successful novelists in the world: Dean Koontz. His books have sold over 450 million copies in dozens of languages, and many of his novels have been at the top of the The New York Times bestseller list. They are found in every bookstore, and several have been made into movies (with mixed results, as he is the first to note). This spring, when PBS launched its Great American Read campaign, his 1987 novel Watchers was on the campaign’s list of “America’s 100 most-loved books.” Yet he is rarely mentioned in the recent debate on the decline of Catholic literary culture. One exception is Jon Sweeney, who called him in America (7/4/16)“the best-selling writer of fiction in the world today who happens to be Catholic” (emphasis added).

Two questions arise about Dean Koontz: First, is he to be listed among serious novelists at all? Second, what makes him a Catholic novelist?
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Hiding in plain sight, indeed. For decades a religious vision has suffused Koontz’s work, making him the most popular explicitly Catholic novelist in the world. But two questions arise: First, is Dean Koontz to be listed among serious novelists at all? Second, what makes him a Catholic novelist?

Some will answer the first question in the negative because they have consigned him to that lucrative but frowned-upon category called “genre fiction.” But to exclude such fiction from the purview of Christian literature would lose us the fantasies of J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, the ghost stories of Russell Kirk and the detective novels of P. D. James, Dorothy Sayers and G. K. Chesterton, to name just a few.

In fact, it is hard to pinpoint exactly to what genre Dean Koontz’s works belong. Bookstores may carry his works under mystery, suspense, horror, fantasy or science fiction. Because his plots often involve individuals struggling against vast conspiracies, The Newark Star-Ledger has called him a master of the “paranoid thriller.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch has said he “almost occupies a genre of his own.”

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