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Wine Coolers served One Door Away from Heaven

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A quintet known as The Coasters once recorded a song called Along Came Jones. It was mildly successful.

Along Came Jones is comedic. The lyrics poke fun at silent, melodramatic, Western movie serials of the "if-you-don't-gimme-the-deed-to-yo-ranch" sort -- the kind that featured smirking villains in the mold of Snidely Whiplash and heroines named Nell. The plots were always the same: In order to extort from Nell the deed to her ranch, Snidely tied Nell to the railroad tracks in front of a train, or he tied her to a log and sent her down the conveyor into the sawmill, or he strapped her to a wagon-load of dynamite, or . . . something. It made no matter because regardless of what Snidely did, he never got his hands on the deed. He was always thwarted when the hero (The Coasters called him 'Jones') came along in the nick of time. Thus the gal was always saved and the bad man was always punished.

They haven't made films like that for a very long time, reason being that today's film audience is too jaded. These days, children above the age of four or five get bored with such stuff.

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I have a nephew, 45 years old. He is an adamant Dean Koontz fan. A couple of people I used to work with were crazy for Dean Koontz novels. For a while there it seemed every time I turned around, somebody shoved a Dean Koontz novel in my face: "Here, man! You gotta read this!" Too bad I was always reading something else.

So it was years before I learned to appreciate Dean Koontz. My awakening finally came when I read One Door Away from Heaven (New York: Bantam; 2001).


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I wasn't more than six or eight chapters into the book when I picked up on the style of it. One chapter ends with the protagonist in a jam; the next chapter ends when that situation is resolved. Often the resolutions are violent. When the narrator's focus shifts to another character, the chapter/action sequence repeats.

It seems Dean Koontz fans find that narrative style and pace exciting. There are 73 chapters in One Door Away. For me, then, the novel was 36 verses of Along Came Jones, each with slightly different lyrics.

The chapters average eight pages each. After one or two hundred pages of those fast-paced, melodramatic ups and downs, I began to get seasick. When I realized there were four hundred pages left, I put down the book for a few minutes and drove to Walgreens, where I bought Dramamine. At the 7-11 across the street, I scored a pound of Jack cheese, a box of Ritz crackers, a gallon of Dago red and a six-pack of lemon-lime soda.

Home again, I made myself a pitcher of wine coolers. Then I diced the cheese into a large bowl of crackers, poured myself a long one and settled on the couch, determined to find out why people like Dean Koontz novels. At the end of it all the cheese and crackers were long gone. I quit building wine coolers after 350 pages, threw my glass away after 500 pages, and ended up (p. 606) suckin' on the jug. That book was an awful ride.

Next day I studied and revised my notes. Day after that I read about half of the book for the second time, checking my notes again as I did so. At some time during that second night, I awoke to the conclusion that those who actually enjoy Dean Koontz novels are those who simply don't know any better. If One Door Away from Heaven is typical, then nobody able to pass a sixth-grade, reading-comprehension exam could suffer through more than one such book.

Faulty Morals

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It seemed to me then that Koontz's stuff is written without conscious thought for the amusement of people who don't know how to think. In all the 606 pages of One Door Away, I found two passages that I feel are key to what I'm driving at. The first occurs on pp. 246-47. Koontz there wrote:

"By the time Laura turned eight, she understood that her family wasn't like others. A conscience had never been nurtured in her, not in the Farrel house, but nature had given her a strong moral sense. Shame came easily to her, and everything about her family mortified her more deeply year by year. . . . She wanted only to grow up, to get out, and to make a life that would be 'clean, quiet, not a harm to anyone."

The second occurs on p. 249. There we learn of Wendy Quail that:

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Deacon "Deke" Solomon did 4 years in the Marines and had a checkered, 10-year career through the blue-collar world before going to college at the age of 35. He came out of school seven years later with a Master's degree and a seemingly unquenchable (more...)

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