Beloved author Pat Conroy, whose muscular, vivid prose has brought to life the storied streets of historic Charleston, the punishing rigor of a military academy much like his alma mater The Citadel and his own troubled childhood, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He tells his fans he’s ready for a fight.
Beloved S.C. author Pat Conroy is celebrated and praised as he turns 70 (S.C. Post and Courier)
The Atlanta native’s robust bibliography inspired memorable filmmaking. “The Prince of Tides” was adapted into the Oscar-nominated movie starring Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte; and “The Great Santini” became a film with Robert Duvall, who was nominated for an Academy Award, and Blythe Danner.
“Santini,” a thinly veiled autobiography, created a rift in Conroy’s family. “In the transparent guise of Marine aviator Bull Meecham, (Conroy’s father) Donald Conroy was revealed as a reprehensible wife-beater and a physically abusive father,” the AJC’s Bo Emerson wrote in a Personal Journey about Conroy.
The notoriety eventually brought about a change in the late elder Conroy, and the family’s reconciliation inspired “The Death of Santini.”
The Citadel graduate wrote about his alma mater in the nonfiction “The Boo,” the affectionate nickname given to Assistant Commandant of Cadets Lt. Colonel Thomas N. Courvoisie. A similar character, Col. Thomas Berrineau, known as “The Bear,” shows up in the novel “Lords of Discipline.”
It, too, inspired a film by the same name, starring David Keith and Robert Prosky. Like “Santini,” it caused a personal rift for Conroy, as The Citadel community took issue with the jarring depiction of the school. “For 30 years he was all but barred from the campus,” the New York Times noted in a piece detailing Conroy’s reconciliation with his Citadel family.
More recent works include “South of Broad,” a sumptuously written novel set in Charleston; and “My Reading Life,” an illuminating nonfiction work that details his reading, and writing, styles.
Here’s a message that Conroy, who is married to the novelist Cassandra King, posted on his Facebook page Monday morning:
“Hey out there,
I celebrated my 70th birthday in October and realized that I’ve spent my whole writing life trying to find out who I am and I don’t believe I’ve even come close. It was in Beaufort in sight of a river’s sinuous turn, and the movements of its dolphin-proud tides that I began to discover myself and where my life began at fifteen.
I have recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. With the help of the wonderful people at M.D. Anderson 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 I intend to deliver it.
My publisher will forward mail
c/o Doubleday, 1745 Broadway, 13th floor, New York, NY 10019