On Theater: Koontz to thrill literary crowd

One of the big perks of my job is the occasional opportunity to meet and interview people in the entertainment world that I've long admired. Among those with whom I've chatted are Mickey Rooney, Debbie Reynolds, Diane Keaton, Martin Milner and Mike Farrell, back when he trod the boards of the old Laguna Playhouse.

But, as a writer, the chance to meet one's particular favorites in the field of literary craftsmanship is something special. I've had this experience on two occasions – interviewing Rod Serling and Dean Koontz for feature articles in the Daily Pilot, the Coastline Pilot's sister paper in Newport Beach.

Serling, of course, has long since passed into the Twilight Zone, but Koontz is very much with us, living in Newport Beach and turning out a new mystery-suspense novel virtually every year. I've been hooked on his stuff for years, and Koontz's works occupy a full shelf in my bookcase.

On Monday, April 2, local people will get a chance to hear what Dean Koontz is all about, when the author takes the stage of the Laguna Playhouse to talk about his experience, his work and what his fans may expect in the future. The event is sponsored by the Laguna Playhouse Women.

The evening begins at 5:30 p.m. with a hosted reception, Laguna Culinary Arts providing the pre-event hors d'oeuvres. Then at 7p.m., Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, host of KUCI's Writers on Writing and Pen on Fire Writers Salon, will introduce the author and moderate the program.

For those of you unfamiliar with Dean Koontz's work, and who appreciate a good thriller that grabs you by the throat and holds on to you, you're truly missing something. I've managed to pore through about 25 or 26 Koontz novels, and each one has commandeered my attention.

When my Daily Pilot article appeared in December 2010, Koontz was tied with John Grisham as the world's sixth most highly compensated author at $25 million in annual sales. And that was before his last two books, "What the Night Knows" and "7 Shadow Street," hit the stores.

Koontz endured something of a Dickensian childhood, and many of his characters have emerged from harsh earlier lives to encounter villains of unspeakable brutality whom they eventually dispatch.

The author and his wife, Gerda, support many charities, among them Canine Companions for Independence, which trains and provides guide dogs for the disabled. One of these dogs, Trixie, became the Koontzes' personal companion from 2004 to 2007 when she died of cancer. Trixie is memorialized in Koontz's short book "A Big Little Life."

Koontz's love of dogs is evident in several of his books, but most prominent in "Watchers," in which a golden retriever with artificially accelerated intelligence communicates with Scrabble tiles and plays the game with the protagonists. As a Scrabble junkie myself, I got a big kick out of that one and shared it with my daughter, who owns two goldens.

Tickets for the playhouse program, billed as "A Special Evening With Dean Koontz," are $50, and may be ordered by calling the theater box office at (949) 497-2787, ext. 1, or by going online to http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

TOM TITUS covers local theater for the Coastline Pilot.

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