Koontz, Dean: Dark Rivers of the Heart
(researched by Casey Burke)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description
1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)
Koontz, Dean Ray: Dark Rivers of the Heart This book was first published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., in New York, New York, in 1994. It was simultaneously published in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, and distributed by Random House, Inc., New York. This copy is a first trade edition; there is also a signed limited edition of this book that was privately printed by Charnel House. Sources: Edward Zempel, and Verkler, Linda A. First Editions: A Guide to Identification. 3rd ed. Peoria:Spoon River Press, 1995
2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?
The first edition is published in black cloth with a dust jacket.
3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available
4 Pagination
350 leaves [10][1-2]5-217[218-222]223-481[9]
5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?
The first edition is neither edited nor introduced
6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?
The are no illustrations.
7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available
8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)
The book is attractive and the text is well presented and easy to read. The first edition is still in excellent condition; there are almost no signs of wear or use. The print is large and uncluttered, and the pages are still crisp and white. The cover is a light pale blackish and the binding is a deeper medium black. The writing on the book is in a shiny gold; "DK" is written on the front and the binding has writing as well. The dust cover is in excellent condition as well. It is midnight blue and says the title in big black letters with the author's name in big white letters on top. There is a red graphic design, resembling a geometric firecracker of sorts. The title is on the back as well, with a bigger version of the same design in the bottom left-hand corner. The pages are 23.3cm by 15.4 cm and the lines are 11.7 cm long. The size of the margins are as follows: 2 cm on the right, 1.5 on the left, 2.25 on bottom, 1.7 on top. R94. Serif print (Janson font.)
9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available
10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)
The paper is not slick and smooth, but rather rough. It is fairly thin except for the first and last leaves, which are thicker. There are no rips or tears, and no yellowing or fading.
11 Description of binding(s)
The pages are stitched together in sixteen separate sections, then held together by red stitching that is nearly hidden from view. The binding has held together very well and has not begun to visibly fall apart at all. It states the author's name and the title at the top in gold, and at the bottom is the name of the publisher (Knopf) and its symbol, each in gold as well (see #8 for further detail.) The binding is of a calico-texture cloth. Source: Gaskell. A New Introduction to Biography
12 Transcription of title page
THIS IS A BURZOI BOOK | PUBLISHED BY ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC. | [interwoven rule line] | Copyright 1994 by Dean R. Koontz | All rights reserved under International and Pan-American | Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. | Knofp, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by | Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed | by Random House, Inc., New York | [interwoven rule line] | Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data | Koontz, Dean R. (Dean Ray), [date] | Dark rivers of the heart: a novel|by Dean Koontz. -1st edition | p.cm | ISBN 0-679-42524-1 | I. Title. | PS 3561.055D28 1994 | 813'.54-dc20 9412090 | CIP | [interwoven rule line] | Manufactured in the United States of America | [interwoven rule line] | FIRST TRADE EDITION | [interwoven rule line] | A signed limited edition of this book has been privately printed by Charnel House Source: Gaskell. A New Introduction to Biography
13 JPEG image of title page, if available
14 Manuscript Holdings
information on manuscripts not available at this time (1999)
15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)
A Note on The Type: This book was set in Janson, a typeface long thought to have been made by the Dutchman Anton Janson, who was a practicing typefounder in Leipzig during the years 1668 to 1687. However, it has been conclusively demonstrated that these types are actually the work of Nicholas Kis (1650-1702), a Hungarian, who most probably learned his trade from the master Dutch typefounder Dirk Voskens. The type is an excellent example of the influential and sturdy Dutch types that prevailed in England up to the time William Caston (1692-1766) developed his own incomparable designs from them. Composed by North Market Street Graphics, Lancaster, Pennsylvania Printed and bound by the Hadden Craftsmen, Scranton, Pennsylvania Designed by Virginia Tan Dedication on p.9 (unnumbered) To Gary and Zov Karamardian | for their valued friendship, | for being the kind of people who | make life a joy for others, | and for giving us a home | away from home. | We've decided to move in permanently | next week! Dust Jacket: Front inside flap: A man and a woman- she is a figure of mystery, he is a mystery even to himself- meet by chance in a Santa Monica bar. Suddenly- first separately, and then together- they are fleeing the long arm of a clandestine and increasingly powerful government agency: the woman hunted for the information she possesses, the man mistaken as her comrade in a burgeoning resistance movement. The architect of the chase is a man of uncommon madness and cruelty, ruthless, possibly psychotic, and equipped with a vast technological arsenal: untraceable access to the government's electronic information banks, its surveillance systems, weaponry, and materiel. He is the brazen face of an insidiously fascistic future. And he is virtually unstoppable. But he has never before come up with the likes of his current quarry. Both of them- survivors of singularly horrific pasts- have had hidden, nomadic, solitary lives. Both have learned to expect "savagery as surely as sunrises and sunsets." Both have long been emboldened by their experiences to fight with reckless courage for their own freedom. Now, they are plunged into a struggle for the freedom of their country, and for the sanctity of their own lives. Once again, in Dark Rivers of the Heart, Dean Koontz has given us an electrifying thriller, a feat of the imagination that steers us just along the razor edge of a familiar, terrifying reality. It is the work of a master storyteller writing at the pinnacle of his form. Back inside flap: [picture of Koontz] / Dean Koontz, the author of many bestsellers, lives with his wife, Gerda, in California / jacket designed by Chip Kidd
Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History
1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A
-Dark Rivers of the Heart: a novel, Book Club Edition, published by Knopf: Distributed by Random House (1994) -Dark Rivers of the Heart: a novel, 1st large print ed., published by Random House Large Print in association with A. A. Knopf (1994) -1st UK edition published in 1994 -soft paperback printing by Ballantine- 1st U.S. print, 11/95, copyright 1994. -Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto- published simultaneously to the edition of assignment #1 Source: Bibliofind, WorldCat, RLIN, CURL
2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available
3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available
4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?
In addition to the First Trade Edition (described in Part I), Alfred A. Knopf (New York) also produced a 1st edition in 1994. It is in cloth, tall 8vo, 487 pages. -1st UK edition published in 1994 -soft paperback printing by Ballantine- 1st U.S. print, 11/95, copyright 1994. Source: www.bibliofind.com
5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A
Dark Rivers of the Heart, Ballantine Books domestic ed., published by Ballantine Books, New York (1995 1994) Dark Rivers of the Heart, 1st Ballantine Books domestic ed., published by Ballantine, New York (1995 1994) (this edition has 17 fewer pages than the one above) Dark Rivers of the Heart, trade paperback edition, published by Ballantine (nov. 1994) Dark Rivers of the Heartpublished by Headline Feature, London (1995 1994) (Reprint of ed. originally published, 1994) Dark Rivers of the Heart published by Headline, London (1994) Dark Rivers of the Heart, Paperback- LARGE PRINT BOOK, 1st ed., published by Random House Value Publishing, Incorporated (Oct. 1994) Dark Rivers of the Heart, trade paperback, published by Random House Large Print (nov. 1994) Dark Rivers of the Heart, hardcover, Random House Value Publishing (July 1996), $5.99 Sources: barnesandnoble.com, WorldCat, RLIN, CURL, www.bibliofind.com
6 Last date in print?
The book is still in print as of 1999 Source: Books in Print Database
7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)
According to an advertisement in the New York Times Book Reviews (November 13, 1994) the first printing sold 650,000 copies. Total not available.
8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)
Not available
9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)
A new triumph of suspense from the master storyteller | DEAN KOONTZ | A terrifying chase. A man and a woman- both keepers of devastating secrets | -in headlong flight from the ruthless emissary of a renegade government agency. | DARK RIVERS | OF THE HEART | "Unrelenting excitement, truly memorable charactersÖ it is difficult to imagine | a reader who won't be hooked by this thriller of government power run amok." | -The first advance review, from Kirkus Reviews | First Printing 65,000 copies [publisher's symbol] Just published by Knopf / A literary Guild Main Selection, Also available as an unabridged Random House AudioBook and is a Random House Large Print Edition (from New York Times Book Review, Nov. 13 1994) Also shown with other bestsellers in ad for The Literary Guild "best sellers | are the | best reasons | to join The Literary Guild" "Take 5 books for $1 with membership Similar ad for "Crown Books" in the LA Times Book Review, Nov. 13, 1994: DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART Once again | Dean Koontz has given us an electrifying thriller... | a feat of the imagination that steers us just along | the razor edge of a familiar, terrifying reality.
10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available
11 Other promotion
Not available through Publisher's Weekly
12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A
Random House Audio Publishing (New York) released a version in 1994. It consists of 12 cassettes (total of 20 hours): analog, Dolby processed. It is unabridged and "Includes a personal interview with the author"- container. It is read by Anthony Heald. Sources: WorldCat FirstSearch, www.amazon.com, www.google.com
13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A
-La porte rouge: roman / Dean Koontz [trad. par Michel Pagel.] Published Paris: France loisirs, 1998 27-Mesnil-sur-l'estree: Impr. Firmin-Didot. Version: Bibliotheque Nationale de France -Il fiume nero dell'anima / Dean Koontz. [translated by Annabella Caminiti. Published by Milano: Sperling paperback, 1998. Version: Servizio Bibliotecario Nazionale (ICCU). Series: Superbestseller -La porte rouge: roman / Dean Koontz: trad. De l'anglais, Etats-Unis, par Michel Pagel. Published: [Paris] 15 rue des Sablons, 75116: le Grand livre du mois, 1997, 27-Mesnil-sur-l'Estree: Impr. Firmin-Didot. Version: Bibliotheque Nationale de France -La porte Rouge: roman / Dean Koontz : trad. De l'anglais, Etats-Unis, par Michel Pagel. Published: [Paris} : Plon, 1997 27-Mesnil-sur-l'Estree, Impr. Fimin-Didot. Version: Biblioteque Nationale de France -Dunkle Flusse des Herzens : Roman / Dean Koontz. Ins Dt. Ubertr. von Uwe Anton Edition: Taschenbuchlizenzausg. Published: Bergisch Gladbach: Bastei-Verl. Lubbe, 1999. Series: Bastei Lubbe ; Bd. 14218. Source: Deutsche Bibliothek Database. -Dunkle Flusse des Herzens : Roman / Dean Koontz. Ins Dt. Ubertr. von Uwe Anton. Edition: Taschenbuchlizenzausg., 1. Aufl. Published: Bergisch Gladback : Bastei-Verl. Lubbe, 1997. Series: Bastei Lubbe ; Bd. 13929 : Allgemeine Reihe. Source: Deutche Bibliotek Database. -Dark Rivers of the Heart: a novel, 1st trade edition, Knopf: Distributed by Random House, New York (1994). Notes: Braille. San Jose, Calif.: Braille Transcription Project of Santa Clara County. 17 v. (1188 p.) Sources: Eureka
14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A
The book was not serialized.
15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A
There were no sequels or prequels.
Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author
1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)
In 1969, Gerda Koontz gave her husband Dean an offer he couldn't refuse. She told him that she would support him for five years, and if he couldn't make it as a writer by then, he never would. After those five years, Gerda had quit her job to manage Dean's career (www.Randomhouse.com). Now his sales are at nearly 200 million copies worldwide per year and rising by over 17 million copies per year. His books have been published in 38 different languages and many have been adapted into miniseries or movies. Seven of his novels have risen to the number one spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List, making him only one of ten writers to ever achieve such fame, and eleven have reached #1 in paperback (www.Randomhouse.com). On July 9, 1945, Dean Ray Koontz was born to a lower-class white family; he was the only child of Ray and Florence Koontz. Until he left for college he lived in the small town of Bedford, Pennsylvania. His early years were difficult; his father regularly cheated, gambled, and got into bar fights. Dean was subject to his father's alcoholic abuse. His father was later diagnosed as "a lifelong borderline schizophrenic with tendencies to violence, complicated by chronic alcoholism" as well as "a sociopathic and pathological liar" (The Dean Koontz Companion: p.9). In his later years, while Dean and Gerda lived with him, he even attempted to stab Dean twice. He died at 81 from degenerative alcohol syndrome. His mother, called Molly, was a gentle and selfless woman who died at age 53 (The Dean Koontz Companion: interview with Ed Gorman). Koontz' life of hardship and poverty helped turn him into a writer; by the age of eight or nine he was writing and producing little stories and selling them to his family for a dime. He says, "That's one reason I became a writer- an obsessive desire to give other people the pleasure, escape, and emotional release that I got from books when I most needed that medicine" (The Dean Koontz Companion: p.11). He met Gerda Ann Cerra when he was a senior and she was a junior in high school, and they married on October 15, 1966. He went to Shippenburg State College, where during his last year his story "The Kittens" won the Atlantic Monthly College creative writing award. Two years later in 1968 Ace Doubleday bought his first book, Star Quest. After graduating he worked with the Appalachian Poverty Program as a counselor and tutor for underprivileged kids. After a year he left to work as an English teacher in a public school outside of Harrisonburg. That was when Gerda made him the offer, and after that his writing career exploded. Dean Koontz has written under the pseudonyms of Brian Coffey, Deanny Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, and Owen West. He has also co-written two books with his wife. His agent is Robert Gottlieb from the William Morris Agency in New York City, and he has worked with many different publishing companies. Koontz began in the science-fiction realm but has expanded to horror, political conspiracy, and suspense fiction; he writes novels, short fiction, and nonfiction as well. He has also written the screenplays for TV and film adaptations of his novels. He now lives in Southern California with his wife; his hobbies include spending time with Gerda, reading, art and antiques, book collecting, and driving (The Dean Koontz Companion: p.52). Sources: The Dean Koontz Companion; Edited by Martin H. Greenburg, Ed Gorman, and Bill Munster; Berkley Books 1994. www.borders.com www.Randomhouse.com Contemporary Authors Database
Assignment 4: Reception History
1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
While reception for Koontz's Dark Rivers of the Heart was fairly positive, it was not spectacular. Critics seemed to agree that it was another well-told, interesting story that would sell like crazy. This is Koontz's 25th book, and the bestseller lists are proof that he knows how to please the public. Most critics expect the same for Dark Rivers of the Heart, and almost write it off as just another Dean Koontz bestseller. It as though it is not seen as an individual book, but part twenty-five of a popular, if not ingenius, chronicle. The well-respected periodicals, like the New York Times Book Review or The Washington Post Book World, do not praise the book for its artistic value, but they do not criticized it too harshly either because of its likely success. As Ray Olsen says in Booklist, "It's just another chase thriller, and Koontz's style (so to speak) hasn't improved, but this is his most interesting opus in a long while." He goes on to say, "Expect this yarn to be? like virtually everything else Koontz writes, read by millions." Curt Suplee from the Washington Post says, "Dean Koontz writes a rattling good story in the way that a '72 Ford is a rattling good pickup truck: Using utterly conventional methods, it moves very fast, carries a huge amount of stuff and makes a lot of unnecessary noise. But mainly it gets the job done" (The Washington Post, Dec. 11, 1994). There are many references to Koontz's prolific writing history. For example, Matt Roush from USA Today says, "Koontz? How did Dean Koontz become a brand name of fantastic fiction: sheer volume?" While most agree that Koontz delivers a great and interesting story, the writing style is lacking and the book does not go deeper than an involving plot. However, Koontz did receive praise for this novel because its subject matter is different than most of his others. In the past Koontz's subject matter involved evil supernatural forces; now critics often point out that he has branched out to produce a technology thriller. As Jay Rosen from the New York Times Book Review says, Mr. Koontz has succeeded where many genre writers have failed: he has switched gears, put the zombies and creepy crawlers aside, and written a believable high-tech thriller." The Armchair Detective adds, "the sci-fi / fantasy aspect of his previous works has been replaced by an emphasis on technology that is almost as fantastic." Although he is occasionally faulted for an apparent lack of extensive computer knowledge, most critics praise him for trying a new subject. Some praise for the novel (www.Randomhouse.com): "A humdinger of a chase novel [that] explodes with all the giddy excitement of a half-dozen James Cameron pictures. DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART deserves to go to No. 1 on the bestseller list" -Entertainment Weekly -"A fresh surprise on virtually every page? and a pyrotechnic denouement full of marvelous mayhem." -The Washington Post "As usual, Koontz's writing is flawless: clean, clear exposition, colorful description, precise narration, and realistic dialogue. DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART is exciting, entertaining, and thoughtful." -The Denver Post "It is difficult to imagine a reader who won't be hooked by this thriller about government power run amok and a man and woman on the run from the madman who wields that power. Unrelenting excitement, truly memorable characters, and ample food for thought." -Kirkus Reviews "? Dark Rivers of the Heart, a book that manages the contortionist tricke of being by turn chilling, sickening and funny." -Peter Millar, The Times "This superb suspense novel will surely delight the author's many fans." -Library Journal Some negative excerpts: "His swollen thrillers are overwritten in a different, less enjoyable way than Stephen King's extravagant colloquial gush or Anne Rice's feverish Gothic mythscapes." "After a long-drawn-out while, you can't turn the pages fast enough. Not so much to find out what happens next, but to get it over with." -Matt Roush, USA Today "But most of the time the language is maddeningly uneconomical." -Curt Suplee, The Washington Post "Time to move on to serious writing, Dean! You're too good a writer to stick with bloody thrillers and skull-exploding horror." -Patricia Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle List of Reviews: Booklist, September 15, 1994, p.84 BookWorld, December 11, 1994 Entertainment Weekly, November 18, 1994 Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 13, 1994 Library Journal, September 1, 1994 Locus, September 1994 Locus, October 1994, p.215 Locus, November 1994, p.21 Locus, December 1994, p.58 Locus, January 1995, p.49 Locus, February 1996, p.39 New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1994, p.58 Publisher's Weekly, September 5, 1994 Publishers' Weekly, October 2, 1994 Rapport, April 1994 Science Fiction Chronicle, March 1995 Audio Version: Armchair Detective, summer 1995, p.329 Wilmington News Journal, January 9, 1995 USA Today, December 6, 1994 Washington Post, December 11, 1994 San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 1994 The Times Headline, November 19, 1994 Sources: Book Review Digest 1995, p.1239 Book Review Index 1995 Twentieth Century Literary Criticism Gale Literary Databases Lexis/Nexis Database www.Randomhouse.com (or www.Amazon.com) Booklist, Sept 15, 1994, p.84 New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1994, p.58 Audio Version: Armchair Detective, summer 1995, p.329
2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)
While reception for Koontz's Dark Rivers of the Heart was fairly positive, it was not spectacular. Critics seemed to agree that it was another well-told, interesting story that would sell like crazy. This is Koontz's 25th book, and the bestseller lists are proof that he knows how to please the public. Most critics expect the same for Dark Rivers of the Heart, and almost write it off as just another Dean Koontz bestseller. It as though it is not seen as an individual book, but part twenty-five of a popular, if not ingenius, chronicle. The well-respected periodicals, like the New York Times Book Review or The Washington Post Book World, do not praise the book for its artistic value, but they do not criticized it too harshly either because of its likely success. As Ray Olsen says in Booklist, "It's just another chase thriller, and Koontz's style (so to speak) hasn't improved, but this is his most interesting opus in a long while." He goes on to say, "Expect this yarn to be? like virtually everything else Koontz writes, read by millions." Curt Suplee from the Washington Post says, "Dean Koontz writes a rattling good story in the way that a '72 Ford is a rattling good pickup truck: Using utterly conventional methods, it moves very fast, carries a huge amount of stuff and makes a lot of unnecessary noise. But mainly it gets the job done" (The Washington Post, Dec. 11, 1994). There are many references to Koontz's prolific writing history. For example, Matt Roush from USA Today says, "Koontz? How did Dean Koontz become a brand name of fantastic fiction: sheer volume?" While most agree that Koontz delivers a great and interesting story, the writing style is lacking and the book does not go deeper than an involving plot. However, Koontz did receive praise for this novel because its subject matter is different than most of his others. In the past Koontz's subject matter involved evil supernatural forces; now critics often point out that he has branched out to produce a technology thriller. As Jay Rosen from the New York Times Book Review says, Mr. Koontz has succeeded where many genre writers have failed: he has switched gears, put the zombies and creepy crawlers aside, and written a believable high-tech thriller." The Armchair Detective adds, "the sci-fi / fantasy aspect of his previous works has been replaced by an emphasis on technology that is almost as fantastic." Although he is occasionally faulted for an apparent lack of extensive computer knowledge, most critics praise him for trying a new subject. Some praise for the novel (www.Randomhouse.com): "A humdinger of a chase novel [that] explodes with all the giddy excitement of a half-dozen James Cameron pictures. DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART deserves to go to No. 1 on the bestseller list" -Entertainment Weekly -"A fresh surprise on virtually every page? and a pyrotechnic denouement full of marvelous mayhem." -The Washington Post "As usual, Koontz's writing is flawless: clean, clear exposition, colorful description, precise narration, and realistic dialogue. DARK RIVERS OF THE HEART is exciting, entertaining, and thoughtful." -The Denver Post "It is difficult to imagine a reader who won't be hooked by this thriller about government power run amok and a man and woman on the run from the madman who wields that power. Unrelenting excitement, truly memorable characters, and ample food for thought." -Kirkus Reviews "? Dark Rivers of the Heart, a book that manages the contortionist tricke of being by turn chilling, sickening and funny." -Peter Millar, The Times "This superb suspense novel will surely delight the author's many fans." -Library Journal Some negative excerpts: "His swollen thrillers are overwritten in a different, less enjoyable way than Stephen King's extravagant colloquial gush or Anne Rice's feverish Gothic mythscapes." "After a long-drawn-out while, you can't turn the pages fast enough. Not so much to find out what happens next, but to get it over with." -Matt Roush, USA Today "But most of the time the language is maddeningly uneconomical." -Curt Suplee, The Washington Post "Time to move on to serious writing, Dean! You're too good a writer to stick with bloody thrillers and skull-exploding horror." -Patricia Holt, The San Francisco Chronicle List of Reviews: Booklist, September 15, 1994, p.84 BookWorld, December 11, 1994 Entertainment Weekly, November 18, 1994 Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1994 Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 13, 1994 Library Journal, September 1, 1994 Locus, September 1994 Locus, October 1994, p.215 Locus, November 1994, p.21 Locus, December 1994, p.58 Locus, January 1995, p.49 Locus, February 1996, p.39 New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1994, p.58 Publisher's Weekly, September 5, 1994 Publishers' Weekly, October 2, 1994 Rapport, April 1994 Science Fiction Chronicle, March 1995 Audio Version: Armchair Detective, summer 1995, p.329 Wilmington News Journal, January 9, 1995 USA Today, December 6, 1994 Washington Post, December 11, 1994 San Francisco Chronicle, November 23, 1994 The Times Headline, November 19, 1994 Sources: Book Review Digest 1995, p.1239 Book Review Index 1995 Twentieth Century Literary Criticism Gale Literary Databases Lexis/Nexis Database www.Randomhouse.com (or www.Amazon.com) Booklist, Sept 15, 1994, p.84 New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1994, p.58 Audio Version: Armchair Detective, summer 1995, p.329
Assignment 5: Critical Analysis
1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)
Dean Koontz published Dark Rivers of the Heart, his 25th novel, in the fall of 1994. By that time, Koontz was already a major name in the world of bestsellers. There were already more than one hundred fifty million copies of his books in print, produced in many languages and media forms, including major motion pictures, made-for-TV movies, and books on tape. Koontz was a household name, commonly referred to as "The Master of Suspense." Dark Rivers of the Heart was a bestseller, but it never rose above the number 7 spot on the New York Times' list. Advertisements did not boast its sales figures, but rather promoted it as another Koontz thriller. Critics reacted similarly, both praising and criticizing it but always speaking of it in reference to Koontz's prolific career. The book's popularity was apparently due to its author's fame, not to any merit of its own. People bought it because it was promoted as the newest Dean Koontz novel but it was not noticeably well received. Bestsellers are sold for mass markets, and Dark Rivers of the Heart, like most Koontz novels, was certainly published with that sort of audience in mind. Koontz's books are rarely popular in hardcover, but instead sell with flashy covers and intriguing titles. The books fit easily into supermarket shelves, their covers are often bright and glossy, and they are praised for their popularity and not their literary value. There are no introductions to Koontz's books, nor are there many scholarly critiques. In the 1990s books come cheap. Koontz and his contemporaries like Danielle Steele, Mary Higgins Clark, Tom Clancy, and John Grisham seem to have found the key to writing bestsellers. They have a basic formula, and they plug different names and details into each of their many novels. Although the public loves this method, critics do not consider these books to be good works of literature. There is a definite sense of "if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all." But with the rise of the popularity of The Oprah Book Club, two sorts of bestsellers arose. Books like Dark Rivers of the Heart fall into one category. They all look very alike; in fact, upon glancing at the shelf they are often nearly indistinguishable. The second category of bestsellers includes those in Oprah's book club, and these novels look very different. They often have muted, grainy covers decorated with artwork or photographs, and many have pages cut at different lengths. This new style of bestseller covers denotes a sort of seriousness; this kind of cover indicates that the novel within is a "real" work of literature. The Dark Rivers of the Heart cover (Ballantine Books edition) is very simple; it has a black and red background with sharply contrasting, embossed white and red lettering. The author's name is larger than the actual title, and the entire back cover consists of his picture. The inside of the front cover has pictures of Koontz's two upcoming novels and following that are five pages of praise for the Dark Rivers of the Heart. This clearly demonstrates the attitude of both the public and the publisher toward the book. Both feel that Dark Rivers of the Heart is just another Koontz thriller that does not necessarily stand on its own. Despite this attitude, one major reason for the book's popularity is that it is highly entertaining. Most reviews praise it for this reason. Koontz's novels define the term "page-turners", and Dark Rivers of the Heart reads very quickly through an intriguing plot. He ends each chapter with an enticing line and the chapters jump back and forth between several subplots. There are endless twists, turns, and surprises, and each one is more horrific than the reader would expect. The main character's father, for example, turns out to be a psychopath who murdered over forty women and kept them in catacombs beneath his barn. The other main character, the woman, had earlier married the son of the head of the evil, clandestine government agency. She watches as her family is murdered and manages to escape only to lead a life of being constantly pursued by the agency. Koontz does not hesitate to exaggerate his plot, but it is all exciting and enthralling. It is a classic "beach read;" a book for people who don't want to think but want to be entertained. Even the cover suggests this; the author's name is huge but the title seems insignificant. People will pick up the book because they know what to expect from Dean Koontz, and they know they will always be entertained. The events of the 1990s shaped the public's response to the novel. The nineties have been the called the "information age" and Koontz's book is a technological thriller. At some points in the novel there are page-long description of advanced, unusual technology. In Dark Rivers of the Heart, the two heroes, a man and a woman, are chased by a secretive, malicious branch of the government. They cannot hide, for the government can track them through satellites or highly advanced heat sensors. This plays on an encroaching fear to many Americans. When this book was published, people were beginning to become wary of the potential of technology's power. The Internet was just becoming common, and the average American became aware of computers' domination in their lives. Koontz expanded upon these fears and wrote a story in which technology is exploited for evil purposes. Also, the question of genetics was on the forefront of scientific thought. The evil character, Roy Miro, murders people in hopes of attaining a perfect society. He envisions a world in which everyone looks the same, no one is too intelligent or too dumb, and everyone is content. His quest for perfection echoes the notions of cloning and genetically engineered life forms. In the 1990s, the average American was bombarded by science and technology, and fears and reservations were inevitable. People were drawn to this book because it was a horror version of what they saw in their daily lives. At times Koontz's authorial voice comes through, and at points he seems slightly paranoid. The book deals with a malevolent, unknown branch of the government that manipulates FBI and CIA standards to accomplish its goals. The reader never really understands the agency's purpose, but this mysterious entity is constantly doing evil things. One character, Harris Descoteaux, aggravates the leader of the organization, Ray Miro, and for no other reason he is framed as a drug dealer and loses all his material possessions and even his identity. When a lawyer attempts to help him gain his life back, Harris finds that the government can basically erase a person's identity for no good reason. It is possible that Koontz is actually very paranoid and is criticizing the government and its justice system, but it is also possible that he is feeding on other peoples' fears. The X-Files was one of the most popular shows on television when Dark Rivers of the Heart was published, and the two are definitely very similar. In the 1990s politicians were vague, the media was sensationalized, and people were engaged in the mystery of their government. Events like the Rodney King riots and the O.J. Simpson trial elevated this general mistrust of authority. Americans in the nineties were and are a cynical group, and Koontz fed on their skepticism of the government as he did their fears of technology. Reviewers tended to have mixed feelings on Koontz's attempts toward a more "high literature" style of writing. Some felt his "swollen thrillers" were "overwritten in a different, less enjoyable way than Stephen King's extravagant colloquial gush or Anne Rice's feverish Gothic mythscapes" (Matt Roush, USA Today). Others consider him a very good writer with "clean, clear exposition, colorful description, precise narration, and realistic dialogue" (The Denver Post). Koontz definitely attempts a lofty narrative style; for example he describes the launching of stun grenades as having "a synchronization that would have been envied by the most demanding symphony-orchestra conductor" (p.339). Describing a house, he says, "Without hyperbole, the structure could be said to brood high upon its hillside, as if it were a living creature. In the late-afternoon shadows of the steep slopes that rose behind the prison, its windows were filled with a sour-yellow light that might have been reflected through connecting corridors from the dungeons of some mountain demon who lived deeper in the Rockies" (p.450). Koontz is fond of metaphors, similes, and imaginative descriptions. Some reviewers suggested that he is too good of a writer to be harping on thriller and horror themes. Considering his style of writing and his choice of subjects, one might guess that he is actually a very gifted writer who sticks with a popular genre for the sake of producing bestsellers. Bestsellers bring cash, whereas the more highbrow literature is often ignored or under-appreciated. Still, his writing is more elegant than that of the average dime store fiction writer, and he himself has never mentioned why he sticks with the more traditional bestseller style. Some find it annoying within the context of a thriller novel, and some find it promising. Regardless it is an interesting conflict, and it leaves many wondering whether he will continue to write within this same genre. Koontz's persona may also have had some affect on his books' popularity. His picture graces the entire back of many editions of many books, and most are black and white photographs. His appearance is often mysterious and even dangerous or sinister. He typifies what one would expect from a horror writer: dark, cold eyes, a mustache, a mysterious smile. Although interviews in magazines or journals were hard to come by, there have been several books written either about his life or autobiographically that give us perspective on his character. He was not reluctant to divulge his past life, including dark family details. As described in assignment 3, much of Koontz's life, especially his childhood, was marked by hardship. However his books claim only that "Dean Koontz lives in Southern California" or "Dean Koontz, the author of many bestsellers, lives with his wife, Gerda, in California." Despite the brevity of authorial information on the paperbacks, further and more intriguing information is readily available. Just like in Koontz's writing, the story of his life unfolds as one progresses further. The success of Dark Rivers of the Heart should not be entirely attributed to its author's name. It was an interesting, fast-paced, entertaining novel. Of course, not every one of Koontz's books has risen to the bestseller list, so this one was special in some way. A lot of it had to do simply with the plot and the characters. A lot had to do with its relevance to the period in which it was published. Yet this book was not overwhelmingly popular or well received. There almost seems to be a sense that one can disregard this book, for undoubtedly Koontz will write another just like it later. The reviews were mixed, and the fact that stayed on the bestseller list for nine weeks without ever rising above the number seven spot suggests ambivalence from the readers. As a thriller, the novel succeeded. As a Dean Koontz book, it was just one of many; fans of the author bought and enjoyed it but not necessarily any more than any other of his books.
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