Novelist Pat Conroy, who announced last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer, has died, according to a statement from his publisher. Conroy was 70.
He announced his diagnosis on Facebook almost three weeks ago, saying “I intend to fight it hard.”
Today’s statement from Todd Doughty, executive director of publicity at Doubleday included comments from Conroy’s wife and his longtime editor:
“Conroy passed away this evening at his home in Beaufort, S.C., surrounded by family and loved ones. ‘The water is wide and he has now passed over,’ said his wife, novelist Cassandra Conroy. Funeral arrangements are currently being made at this time.
” ‘Pat has been my beloved friend and author for 35 years, spanning his career from The Prince Of Tides to today,’ said his longtime editor and publisher, Nan A. Talese of Doubleday. ‘He will be cherished as one of America’s favorite and bestselling writers, and I will miss him terribly,’ Talese said.”
The Associated Press notes that four of Conway’s “novels of troubled relationships and dysfunctional families” were turned into movies, including his best-known books, The Great Santini and The Prince Of Tides.
“Conroy writes from his own experiences, as a child of a violent father,” said NPR’s Tom Vitale in a 1986 Morning Edition interview with the author. Like his Prince Of Tides protagonist, Pat Conroy grappled with his own conflicted sense of identity, particularly as a Southerner, Conroy told Vitale:
“I’m a military brat. My father was a Marine Corps fighter pilot from Chicago, Ill. I did not live in Southern towns, I lived on bases. I was a Roman Catholic, which is the strangest thing you can be in the South. Not only that, I married a Jewish woman from Bensonhurst. So when people refer to me as a Southerner … I liked it because I never had a home. It was the first name that was ever associated with me that put me in a place.”
Even 30 years later, Conroy’s determination to crack his identity hadn’t stopped. In the previously mentioned Facebook post, he added:
“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.”