Dean Koontz: Much to learn from a master storyteller

I just finished reading 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz—a can’t-put-it-down, ignore-my-husband-for-days, 556-page paperback (purchased at Costco, my favorite place to buy books). The book included a bonus 137-page novella, The Moonlit Mind—also a creepy good story.

This is the first time I’ve read one of Koontz’s books with my writer’s filter on, highlighter in hand. So much to learn from this master storyteller.

Here are a few gems from 77 Shadow Street.

Comic relief in the midst of horror

I’ll begin with a snippet of a scene with my favorite hero in the book: Winny, an-almost-nine-year-old boy (I love how Koontz captured this character’s voice).

Winny was beyond fear. That didn’t mean he wasn’t afraid. Beyond mere fear was way-serious fear. He now knew what the gross term “scared shitless” truly meant. It didn’t mean you were so frightened you dumped everything in your system. It meant you clenched your butt so tight for so long that, if you survived, you were for sure going to be constipated for a month. (pg 485-486)

Vivid language and description

The busy traffic ascended and descended the long boulevard, the blacktop streaming with rain and with glimmering reflections of headlights, with slithering red rivulets of taillights. (pg 44)

Cold rain streamed down the tall chimney stacks which were whetstones against which the wind whistled thinly as it sharpened itself… (pg 165)

…vivid mind movie… (pg 107)


He had been a beat cop and then a homicide detective, and he had busted more punks than the combined series heroes of a hundred thriller writers, which maybe wasn’t saying much because, in Logan’s estimation, ninety percent of the guys who pounded out those books were sissies who knew less about real evil than did your average librarian and who were no tougher than a Twinkie. (pg 65)

Preaching truth without getting on a soapbox

Facts could be twisted by liars, but every fact was like a piece of memory metal that inevitably returned to its original shape. (pg. 96)

Imminent death didn’t terrify her as much as did the prospect of having lived a life in perpetual retreat, a life that would amount now to so much less than she’d ever hoped, a life that would end without a witness. (pg 144)

You could use strength, whatever little of it you might have, for the right thing, even if you knew there was no chance you would win the fight, even if you were doomed from the start, you could stand up and swing your skinny arms, because trying against the worst odds was what life was all about. And there he had found the harder thing he needed to do, the hardest thing of all hard things: do what was right even if there was no hope of success or expectation of reward. (pg 518, Winny’s point of view)

Here’s my favorite bit from the novella, The Moonlit Mind:

A part of him believes that the power that has saved him often in the past few years, the power that wants him to return to Theron Hall to conclude unfinished business, has armored him against harm and will lead him to the third floor and safely away again without a violent encounter. But another part of him a less wishful Crispin who knows that journeying through the fields of evil is the price we pay for free will, expects the worse. (The Moonlit Mind, pg 684)

Check out the interactive website for the book: 77 Shadow Street – The Immersive Experience.

Dean Koontz is one of my all time favorite authors. His suspense thrillers contain elements of horror and the supernatural, often portraying the battle between good and evil—but good always prevails. A clue into the driving force behind his work was found in an article, “Chatting With Koontz About Faith,” National Catholic Register, March 2007:

“Avoiding the recognition of evil is profoundly sinful. There is a purpose and meaning in our lives, and that purpose includes confronting evil, not succumbing to it.”

What are some snippets from your favorite books?

Leave a comment


  1. As writers, it always helps to not only read works that inspire us, but to have the wherewithall to take notes about what we like or don’t like. How else do we learn and grow? Excellent post. 🙂

    • Natalie Sharpston

       /  October 8, 2012

      Thanks Wendy! I used to only highlight stuff in nonfiction… I think I’ll be marking up my fiction books from now on. 🙂

      • Wendy Van Camp

         /  October 8, 2012

        Excellent idea. I’ve been thinking of doing something like this with Ray Bradbury’s work. He has such a poetic style of writing. I’d like to develop more of that feel in my work.

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