Pat Conroy, the acclaimed Southern author of such novels as The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, died Friday evening at his home in Beaufort, S.C., after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 70.
His publisher, Doubleday, confirmed the news to EW. Conroy had announced last month that he had been diagnosed with the disease, which is difficult to detect early and can be hard to treat. He said at the time he was working on his latest novel and intended to deliver it.
Conroy’s wife, the novelist Cassandra Conroy, said in a statement Friday, “The water is wide and he has now passed over.”
Nan A. Talese, Conroy’s longtime editor and publisher at Doubleday, said in a statement, “Pat has been my beloved friend and author for 35 years, spanning his career from The Prince of Tides to today. He will be cherished as one of America’s favorite and bestselling writers, and I will miss him terribly.”
Born into a military family, Conroy was the oldest of seven children, and his volatile youth indelibly shaped his life and work. He had an ambivalent love for his father, Donald Conroy, a U.S. Marine Corps colonel who could be a violent, abusive man. Donald Conroy inspired The Great Santini (1976), a thinly veiled family portrait that took its title from the patriarch’s self-given nickname. The book, which caused great friction among Conroy’s family, was adapted into a 1979 film starring Robert Duvall and Blythe Danner.
Conroy’s other books included The Lords of Discipline (1980), which drew on his time as a cadet at the Citadel; The Prince of Tides (1986), which was made into a film with Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand; Beach Music (1995); My Losing Season (2002); and South of Broad (2009).
Conroy often credited his Southern belle of a mother, the former Frances “Peg” Peek, for his love of language, and he was known for his lyrical — some would say florid — prose. He made no apologies for his writing style.
“There are other writers who try for subtle and minimalist effects, but I don’t travel in that tribe,” he wrote in The Death of Santini, his 2013 memoir. “I like to make people look up and see me walking the high wire without a net.”