Pat Conroy: Bestselling author who made his name with the novels 'The Great Santini' and 'The Prince of Tides'

"The reason I write is to explain my life to myself," he said. "I've also discovered that when I do, I'm explaining other people's lives to them."

Bruce Smith
Tuesday 22 March 2016 21:07 GMT
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Conroy: he mined his early life for his books, and explored his relationship with his abusive father
Conroy: he mined his early life for his books, and explored his relationship with his abusive father

The author Pat Conroy, who has died of cancer, was best known for his books The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides, set against the vistas of the South Carolina coast that was his home.

Conroy, who sold 20m books worldwide, candidly and expansively shared details of growing up as a military brat and his anguished relationship with his abusive father. He also wrote of his time in military school and his struggles with his health and depression. "The reason I write is to explain my life to myself," he said. "I've also discovered that when I do, I'm explaining other people's lives to them."

He was the eldest of seven children in a family constantly moving from military base to military base, a life described in The Great Santini, the film of which starred Robert Duvall as the relentless and violent patriarch. The 1976 novel initially enraged Conroy's family, but the film three years later made such an impression on his father that he claimed credit for boosting Duvall's career.

The book also helped achieve peace between father and son. "I grew up hating my father," Conroy said after his father died in 1998. "It was the great surprise of my life, after the book came out, what an extraordinary man had raised me."

The Prince of Tides (1986) sold more than 5m copies with its story of a former American football player from South Carolina with a traumatic past and the New York psychiatrist who helps him. Barbra Streisand starred in and directed the 1991 film version, which also featured Nick Nolte and earned seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

Donald Patrick Conroy, author: born Atlanta, Georgia 26 October 1945; married three times (two daughters); died Beaufort, South Carolina 4 March 2016.

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