Dean Koontz (who is also known to have written under the names Aaron Wolfe, Brian Coffey, David Axton, Deanna Dwyer and John Hill amongst others) is an American author who is noted for both his prolific bibliography, as well as his mastery of the suspense thriller genre. That being said, his books also incorporate other elements such as horror, fantasy and science fiction.
As of this list going up on the site Koontz has written at least 123 novels/novellas, with 32 of those being broken down into the various series he has published. The remaining 91 novels/novellas are standalone content. He has written 3 graphic novels as part of his popular ‘Odd Thomas’ series. He has also written at least 50 unique short stories (with considerably more being later edited and/or expanded into novels). The reason why I’ve used the phrase ‘at least’ above is that it’s hard to get a truly accurate grasp of how much he was written, partly because he has been writing for over 50 years but also because he has written under at least 10 known pen names/pseudonyms and because their are works published which were either falsely written under his name (or one of his pen names) by an as of yet unnamed individual or because he himself has disputed authorship, or the books themselves have been misattributed to him. So while the listed figured above may not be entirely accurate, they are as correct as I have been able to be without access to further information.
Several of his books have also later been adapted to film, with at least 15 of them getting the silver screen treatment, in fact his 1987 novel Watchers (which has been credited as first establishing his status as a best selling author) has been adapted into four distinct movies, all loosely based upon the original source material. Okay that seems like a decent enough introduction let’s move onto the list.
Velocity is a fantastically well written novel, that blended a phenomenally well paced story with a genuine and palpable tension that made the narrative fly by like a feature film. It also happens to be the first book by Dean Koontz that i ever read and it introduced me to Koontz, who has been my favourite author ever since. Velocity follows the main character, Billy Wiles who is just trying to live his life, struggling without his fiancée who had fallen into a coma several years previously. Things are just plodding along until he is engaged by a psychopath, who Billy refers to as ‘The Freak’, and the psycho plays a series of cruel ‘pranks’ and invasions of privacy, as well as acts of assault upon Billy, all because he sees these crimes as art. I won’t reveal anymore of the story, what I will say is that I strongly recommend that you check it out. There is also planned, a sequel, called Secret Forest, featuring a side character called Ivy Elgin which is scheduled for some point in the future.
2. Tick Tock
This so very nearly took the top spot, it’s only my enduring love for Velocity, combined with it’s obvious quality that meant this one only made it to spot number 2, but that’s still high praise as their were so many books to pick from, and so many really good ones as well. Anyway, Tick Tock is a very unique story, not only because it has some strong Vietnamese ties, but also because it manages to blend really horror and suspense, with an element of screwball comedy. It’s a truly special book that I’ve read easily a dozen times since I first came across it. It follows Tommy Phan, a first generation Vietnamese-American who feels disconnected from his Vietnamese roots and wants nothing more than to assimilate to the American lifestyle. He discovers a deadly doll on his doorstep, with a distinctly Vietnamese feel, and is pursued throughout the night, encountering a woman who changes his entire world, even more so than the murderous doll. I was just floored by this book, how it did so much, even managed to honour a rich cultural backdrop as well as the reality of first generation immigrant. A personal highlight of the story, other than the wonderful Del, was Tommy’s mother, who was just fantastic.
3. The Husband
I think this was the second Koontz book I ever read and if Velocity introduced to me his talent as an author, this book cemented that fact clearly to me. It was an engaging and very human story, with family at its core in one way or another. It’s also very action packed, which is an element that Koontz does well, and thankfully sparingly enough to make it impactful. This book, much like a lot of the others on this list, as well as a lot of the others in his bibliography are a work of both hope and despair, as well as at its core, love. Love is by far the most prevailing theme of his books, in this we have Mitch, an ordinary landscaper who is told that if he doesn’t somehow get his hands on 2 million dollars then his wife is dead, and he does everything in his power to secure that money, practically moving heaven and earth to save her.
4. The Good Guy
For the longest time I got this confused with the previous entry on this list because both have similar themes and core concepts, although you could equally say it has shades of Tick Tock in it as well. But despite reminding me in broad strokes of those two books, it is entirely its own animal, and it’s a rich and dynamic plot, that sees Timothy Carrier being confused both for a hitman and someone wishing to hire such an individual. Unwilling to allow this to happen, he intervenes and sets out to protect the unwitting target, who is a writer named Linda Paquette. I loved this entry from start to finish, the complex and bizarre hitman, the relationship between and Linda, but what really made it for me was the slow, paced reveal of Timothy’s background, why people implicitly trust him, and also his insistence that he is nothing more than a simple mason.
5. Fear Nothing
So I struggled with which one of the Moonlight Bay books to include, and while Seize the Night (the sequel) is equally good I ended up picking this one because it was the first, and because it introduced me to one of my favourite Koontz characters, Christopher Snow. A sufferer of Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP) who after the death of his father becomes embroiled in a conspiracy of such an enormous scale. I enjoyed the evil and wickedly clever rhesus monkeys, I loved Bobby Halloway, Christopher’s best friend, who is the epitome of chilled out, and yet reliable. The highlight of the story however was Orson, a hyper intelligent, and emotionally sensitive dog, as well as Christopher’s best four legged friend. Orson was wonderful, every bit the good boy, and he represents a recurring theme in Koontz’s books of dogs, but being the absolute best. As a lifelong dog lover, Koontz and I have something in common and it’s good to see this dynamic appear in his books.
So this was an interesting one, and it’s actually a recent addition to my top 10, but it caught my attention and I just consumed it in a day, and since then read it at least once or twice more. It’s about people and a conspiracy, we have a varied cast of characters including an author called Dominick Corvaisis, a surgeon called Ginger Weiss, motel owners, Ernie and Faye block and a priest by the name of Brendan Cronin just to name a few. Other than the complex and rich relationships between the characters, all brought to the Tranquillity motel by curiosity and the hope of a solution to their unique conditions. It’s such a deeply interesting story, about brainwashing, suppressed memories and a government conspiracy.
This is a really rich story, that borrows from the idea of the missing village at Angikuni Lake as well as multiple other cases of mass disappearances, both real and fiction, another good example being the Roanoke colony disappearance. It also has deep H.P Lovecraft influences and references, including the idea that the ancient enemy presented in Phantoms is the Lovecraftian god Nyarlanthotep. Anyway, we have another mass disappearance in the small ski-resort village of Snowfield, our main characters Jenny and Lisa Paige soon discover that their appears to be no one alive in the entire village. I just can’t get over this book, sure it’s seven on this list, but considering he’s published over 100, and I think most, if not all of them are good, making the list means it must be special.
If it didn’t turn out that in Edgler Vess’s case it can lead to murder and sex crimes, I would say that the concept of living with intensity was an appealing if rather simplistic life goal. I read the book though, and enjoyed it immensely, so with that in mind I think instead I’ll continue to be filled with anxiety and constantly scrutinise my ever action instead. But enough about me, let’s talk about Intensity. It focuses on two characters, Chyna Shepard and Edgler Vess, Chyna is a strong but reserved young woman, who has suffered abuse at the hands of her mother, and so resists connecting deeply with people, and Vess is a psychopath who considered himself to be a ‘homicidal adventurer’ and has committed a variety of atrocities since his youth, in an effort to live with intensity. Chyna is easily one of my favourite protagonists, she feels vulnerable and real, and yet with a thread of delicate empathy and compassion that cannot be subdued, it’s what gets her into trouble and it’s what saves her. This book was adapted into a TV miniseries of the same name, which starred John C McGinley (known for his roles as as Perry Cox in Scrubs, Bob Slydell in Office Space and Sergeant Red O’Neill in Platoon) as Vess, which in my opinion wasn’t only good but is arguably the best film adaption of Koontz work.
There was a lot to like about this book, the whole Greenwich family were charming and easily memorable, in particular the precocious Milo and his companion Lassie. It was both similar to his previous works in some regards but also different enough to be surprising, you genuinely don’t know for certain whether the main character(s) will survive to the end, and Sherman Waxx is a deeply intimidating figure for an antagonist, and that he is or appears to be just a wealthy and murderous critic makes him more threatening because he could exist, after all, the world is full of twisted people, and as I said earlier on in this list, Koontz world, that is the best and the worst, he sees the ‘human debris’ to use a term from Velocity, he sees the bad in us, but also recognises the human capacity for goodness, and the inherent capacity within the most ordinary of us, for uncommon acts of bravery, and loyalty and kindness. Also dogs are good, I knew that before, but Koontz’s books make it abundantly clear.
10. 77 Shadow Street
This was released to mixed reviews, even I have to admit, the first two times I sat down to read it, I just couldn’t finish it, not that it was bad, but it just felt clunky in a way that no other Koontz book had done before or has done since, but once I just pushed past that I actually really enjoyed it, and fully believe it deserves to be on this list. It reminded me a little of The Taking, which almost took this spot instead of 77 Shadow Street, but in the end this book won out because it’s richer, more engaging cast of characters, each spotlighted expertly, and because unlike other Koontz books which have common themes or elements that occur throughout, I was less certain, less sure of what was happening which made for a genuine thrill to read. I can easily see why it wasn’t as popular as some of his other works, but I think it’s a deeply enjoyable if complex read, that blends the disturbing, and the horror with some genuine intrigue.
Honourable mentions go to Odd Thomas, Frankenstein: Prodigal Son and Sole Survivor which I also really enjoyed but didn’t quite make the top 10 list.
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