Saturday, August 3, 2013

2013.07.16 — In Celebration of AlMFr's inclusion into Humanity, Some Koontz: The Good Guy

I have adopted a policy of not reading giant American bestselling authors, but an American friend has sited Dean R. Koontz as a favourite writer. AlMFr has joined the 21+ set, and given that i cannot meet her face-to-face to give her a prim and proper public toast in celebration of my pleasure in having come to know her, I thought I would toast her from afar by dipping into her reading world and give Koontz a read.

Although this wasn't going to be my first stab at him. I remember reading Demon Seed in 1975 or so. (Can you believe that this book warrants its own Wikipedia page?!) The book wasn't great, I think because I didn't like the ending. However, it must have something in it because almost 40 years later I still remember this book. (The movie was SO VERY bad. Perhaps the worst book to movie adaptation I have seen, ranking in rankness with Soylent Green. And may actually worse then even Schwarzenegger's Commando and Eastwood's The Gauntlet.)

What to pick? I wandered to my nearby used book store. OMG, he is prolific! J&L of Renaissance Books have about two and half shelves of Koontz, few of them duplicates.

Dean Koontz.
The Good Guy.
Random House. 2012.06.26.
ISBN: 978-0-345-53332-6.

Began July 16, 2013
Finished July 31, 2013


This is an easy summer read with a fun, nicely drawn sociopathic killer with connections to a secret government organization. It has the strong, silent, modest hero, rising to the challenge of unbeatable odds. It has an equally strong female who is not a victim of the attempt to kill her. I was delighted by how much this book echoed my own youthful favourites, in particular Dead Cert by Dick Francis.
[Note: per Wikipedia, Dead Cert is listed in 100 Must-Read Crime Novels.] Now that I am a bit older, it would seem that the stoicism and survival of the characters was what appealed to me and now appeals to my friend. It was a very pleasant surprise that reading The Good Guy brought back youthful memories and feelings.

There is a but, however. Stop reading if you don't want to read me disclosing in some detail the ending. It ended very badly, enough to take it from a five star book, to four. When I told Al of my reaction, she agreed with me. And added 'Koontz writes bad endings. Usually.' Actually, it was so bad that I found myself 'needing' to extemporaneously re-write it for Koontz. I have included that below my review. After I told Al that, she confessed to having re-written five endings for Koontz as well, but without publishing them. (Al, please publish them!)

What could have been so bad? After surviving against all odds, in what had been generally very strong writing for this genre, the protagonist suffers through a deus ex machina as bad as any I've read in at least ten years. The protagonist talks to the President of the USA, who cleans house of the evil secret security organizations. Really? Not only does this assume the president doesn't know about it, which is, although possible, somewhat improbable. But then, if he doesn't, how would he be able to so quickly effect such a housecleaning? And if he did know about them, how would he clean house? They would be an accepted part of managing a free democracy, and he would have little ability to change that.

Yes, The Good Guy had a very bad ending, indeed. Too bad, as it hurt an otherwise very entertaining read.

Normally I include extended citations from the books I review, but in stead I will post my re-write of the ending.
In February, nine months after Tim killed Linda's would-be murderer, six months after his meeting with the president, Michael McCready's house burnt to the ground. What remains were left were tentatively identified as those of McCready, and the initial survey indicated it was an accident.

But Tim didn't learn that for several days after the fact. The day before McCready died, Tim's sophisticated and expertly hidden security surveillance system disclosed someone's presence where no one was supposed to be. Without flinching with the pain of this betrayal, Tim texted Linda with their pre-determined code-word. Without seeking each other, they exited their home via two divergent underground paths. Each picked up the stowed survival kits that had been carefully prepared. Before hurrying to meet her, Tim texted Pete another code word one of the disposable cell phones in the survival kit. He left it and his regular cell phone behind after removing their batteries.

Several hours later, Tim was looking at Linda looking at him. For the first time he thought he saw a touch of fear in her eyes. 'We're not dead yet,' was all he said. It was enough.
Okay, okay. I'll cite something real, as well. I fully acknowledge this is not great heavy-handed literature, but it entertained me for a few hours over a couple of weeks. Here's Koontz:
Taking swift strides, Krait went after her, but he did not run. A pursuit that required running was probably a pursuit lost.

Besides, a running man did not appear to be a man in control. He might even give the impression of being panicked.

Appearances are not reality, but they often can be a convincing alternative to it. You can control appearances most of the time, but facts are what they are. When the facts are too sharp, you can craft a cheerful version of the situation and cover the facts the way that you can cover a battered old four-slice toaster with a knitted cozy featuring images of kittens (120).
See, not great writing, but moves the narrative along while establishing the civil ethos of the sociopathic killer.

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