Author Pat Conroy, best known as the writer of the novels The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, and the movies based on them, has passed from a brief illness at his home in South Carolina. The author was 70-years-old. Conroy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer only a month ago when he put out a statement that he “intended to fight it hard.”
According to the State, Pat Conroy moved to his adopted hometown of Beaufort, South Carolina as a teenage military brat and stayed, using it as an inspiration for his writing.
“The water is wide but he has now crossed over,” said his wife, Cassandra King, through a family friend.
Conroy fell in love with Beaufort, and Beaufort loved him back for telling its stories and embracing its institutions. Lawrence S. Rowland, a Beaufort historian, says that Conroy put the town on a national stage through his books.
“I can’t imagine anything other than World War II that promoted Beaufort any more than what Pat did,” Rowland said. “The value of Pat’s publicity — to put Beaufort on the silver screen and advertise it, and the millions of fans who read Conroy’s every word — is hard to measure.”
The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini brought the film industry to town, and it came back for additional films like Forrest Gump and The Big Chill. Pat Conroy became the patron saint of Beaufort, South Carolina. And Conroy never shied away from difficult topics like abusive fathers, bad schools, environmental issues, and mental illness.
In recent years, Conroy had been on a health kick, working out, eating better, and even quitting drinking.
RIP Pat Conroy. He will always be with us through The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides pic.twitter.com/nSlaFEtc9m— Vintage & Anchor (@VintageAnchor) March 5, 2016
The New York Times reported that Conroy passed on Friday while surrounded by friends and family, from which he drew unending inspiration for his novels set in the south. A main source of inspiration was Conroy’s brutal childhood, dominated by his father, Donald, a Marine Corps fighter pilot who treated his family like his underlings and physically abused his wife and children, primarily his eldest child, Pat Conroy. This, combined with a mother, Frances, who read her children Gone With the Wind at bedtime and taught them to lie about the physical abuse at home, provided Conroy with a rich tapestry from which to mine Conroy’s Low Country-layered stories
Fans of Pat Conroy all have their favorite novel, whether it be Beach Music, The Great Santini, South Broad, or The Prince of Tides. Conroy’s books were all New York Times bestsellers and had fans eager for his next release. But even Conroy had his critics, who often found him long-winded and verbose.
“Inflation is the order of the day,” Richard Eder wrote of The Prince of Tides in the Los Angeles Times. “The characters do too much, feel too much, suffer too much, eat too much, signify too much and above all talk too much.”
But his loyal fans hung on his Low Country every word and found his novels to be page-turners.
And Pat Conroy was more than just a novelist, also crafting works of non-fiction, including The Pat Conroy Cookbook, My Reading Life, and The Death of Santini.
People Magazine gave some fans of Pat Conroy hope that there might be at least one more book to devour by the king of the Low Country. At the time of his diagnosis, Conroy wrote a note to fans on Facebook.
“I intend to fight it hard. I am grateful to all my beloved readers, my friends and my family for their prayers. I owe you a novel and intend to deliver it.”
Pat Conroy is survived by a wife, children, and grandchildren.
What is your favorite Pat Conroy novel or film?
[Photo by Jeffrey Vock/Getty Images]