Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz – Whispers – Psychopaths and turgid nipples

In 1979, when I wrote Whispers, I was less well known than the young Harrison Ford before he appeared in American Graffiti—and a lot less handsome. I was slightly better looking than J. Fred Muggs, a performing chimpanzee on TV at that time, but also less well known than he was. Whispers was the last book I wrote in total obscurity and the last book I wrote on a typewriter. For years, I didn’t realize why this project drained me. A decade later, I could look back on the book and understand that I was writing out of painful personal experience, which I couldn’t acknowledge at the time. Virtually all the characters in Whispers suffer terrible, violent childhoods. Some overcome those traumas, and some do not; indeed, one of them becomes a serial killer. I, too, had lived through a childhood marked by physical and psychological violence. Although my experience was not like that of Hilary in Whispers, and certainly not like that of Bruno, I was nevertheless drawing upon my own life for the emotional content of the novel, while only half realizing what I was doing, which is why the writing of it left me so depleted. I still like this novel and feel that it was a milestone for me. I regret only the rigid Freudian nature of the psychology underlying the history. In the years since, I’ve come to believe that Freudianism is pure bunkum and to deplore the culture of victimization that it has generated.

Dean Koontz – Afterword

Whispers

HE IS BACK Hilary Thomas knew terror as a child, but never anything like this.

HE IS BACK He is hunting her with a sick desire more terrifying than hatred could ever be. And he is in her house again.

HE IS BACK He is on the stairs and he can’t be stopped. Hilary killed him once and he keeps coming back. Again and again.

HE IS BACK He is at her bedroom door.


Let me tell you about my love of Dean Koontz. He’s the one I read when I wanted a light story of horror, love and dogs. Maybe not so light. Maybe a bit heavy on the abuse parts. Maybe sprinkle a bit of paranoia and molestation. Maybe add government agents following you with unlimited resources to do unspeakable things to you.

And Whispers, well, this book I read and then forgot about it until I found it in my ebook stash. I thought I’d read it again and it all came back to me. Why I loved Dean Koontz’s writing.

Meet Hillary Thomas, a screenwritter of great success.

Hot. Burning. Ablaze with plans and possibilities. It was a glorious feeling. She was a damned successful screenwriter, a hot property indeed, and she could hire a platoon of gardeners if she wanted them.

She’s rich and she just landed another deal that will place her in the top tier of L.A. She’s modest and doesn’t even begin to understand the class system around her, even in a restaurant there are layers upon layers of people who want to be seen.

“For one thing, people must have aspirations, desires beyond the basic needs of food and shelter, obsessive wants that will drive them to accomplish things. If there’s a best neighborhood, a man will hold down two jobs to raise money for a house there. If one car is better than another, a man—or a woman, for that matter; this certainly isn’t a sexist issue—will work harder to be able to afford it. And if there’s a best table in the Polo Lounge, everyone who comes here will want to be rich enough or famous enough—or even infamous enough—to be seated there. This almost manic desire for status generates wealth, contributes to the gross national product, and creates jobs. After all, if Henry Ford hadn’t wanted to move up in life, he’d never have built the company that now employs tens of thousands. The class system is one of the engines that drive the wheels of commerce; it keeps our standard of living high. The class system gives people goals—and it provides the maître d’ with a satisfying sense of power and importance that makes an otherwise intolerable job seem desirable.”

The thing is, Hillary came from nothing. As Mr. Koontz explained in the afterword, she was loosely modelled after his own childhood, terrifying abusive parents, beatings and shouting and psychopaths instead of loving and doting caregivers.

She wanted to lean back and drink lots of icy Dom Perignon and let happiness consume her, but she could not totally relax. She was always sharply aware of that spectral darkness at the edges of things, that crouching nightmare waiting to spring and devour her. Earl and Emma, her parents, had jammed her into a tiny box of fear, had slammed the heavy lid and locked it; and since then she had looked out at the world from the dark confines of that box. Earl and Emma had instilled in her a quiet but ever-present and unshakable paranoia that stained everything good, everything that should be right and bright and joyful.

She does not know yet, but she’s been targeted by a psychopath, a sadistic killer who’s only known her for a few days when she went with a film crew to Napa Valley vineyards to film a short. He’s fixated on her and wants her dead. Using the keys that he sneakily stole from her during her visit, he lets himself into her house and attacks her the moment she gets back from her dinner.

The instant that she spotted the knife, Hilary froze. She stopped backing away from him, even though he continued to approach. A knife will do that. It chokes you up, freezes your heart, brings an uncontrollable tremor to your guts. Surprisingly few people have the stomach to use a knife against another living thing. More than any other weapon, it makes you aware of the delicacy of flesh, the terrible fragility of human life; in the damage that he wreaks, the attacker can see all too clearly the nature of his own mortality. A gun, a draught of poison, a firebomb, a blunt instrument, a strangler’s piece of rope—all can be used relatively cleanly, most of them at a distance. But the man with a knife must be prepared to get dirty, and he must get in close, so close that he can feel the heat escaping from the wounds as he makes them. It takes a special courage, or insanity, to slash at another person and not be repelled by the warm blood spurting over your hand.

The difference is that Hillary is a fighter. She does not freeze and she runs from her assailant, manages to cause some damage and convinces him (with a gun placed to his nether regions) to leave her be. I would have totally pressed the trigger but she’s a little scared of causing damage, even when this man’s full intent was to rape and torture her to death.

Keeping the .32 on his scrotum, she disengaged herself from him as if she were rising from a bed of nitroglycerin. Her abdominal muscles were painfully tight with tension. Her mouth was dry and sour. Their noisy breathing seemed to fill the bedroom like rushing wind, yet her hearing was so acute that she could detect the soft ticking of her Cartier watch. She slid to one side, got up on her knees, hesitated, finally pushed all the way to her feet and shuffled quickly out of his reach before he could trip her again.

An intimidating look at a .45 caliber handgun.

The two police officers which arrive at the scene are Tony and Frank, newly paired as cops and Tony feels that his single life might come to an end when he sees Hillary. He’s immediately attracted to her while Frank is on the other side of the spectrum. Due to his recent divorce, he sees every woman as a lying, scheming, attention-grabbing piece of work and he distrusts Hillary’s account of events and once the police confirm that her attacker – named – is still at home in Napa, Hillary and Tony are looking at an impossibility. How can a man who’s still at home be positively ID’d during an assault miles and miles away?

Tony’s good though and he can’t let the feeling go that he and Hillary will meet again. He absolutely hates his singledom but can’t escape it.

I’m far from pure. But I just can’t see myself on the make in a place like Paradise, cruising, calling all the women ‘foxes,’ looking for fresh meat. For one thing, I couldn’t keep a straight face making the kind of chatter that fills in between the band’s numbers. Can you hear me making that scene? ‘Hi, I’m Tony. What’s your name? What’s your sign? Are you into numerology? Have you taken est training? Do you believe in the incredible totality of cosmic energy? Do you believe in destiny as an arm of some all-encompassing cosmic consciousness? Do you think we were destined to meet? Do you think we could get rid of all the bad karma we’ve generated individually by creating a good energy gestalt together? Want to fuck?’

What I really, really like about Dean Koontz’s books is not just the his and hers stories are told, but also the killer’s. You get a bunch of insight into the deranged inner workings of unhinged individuals whose only purpose is to hurt others. The Why? and the How? are all handled – even though there is a little bit of mystery left in this book to make it worthwhile.

Katherine. That’s who she really was. Katherine.
“Stinking bitch,” he said aloud.
She scared him. In the past five years, he had killed her more than twenty times, but she had refused to stay dead. She kept coming back to life, in a new body, with a new name, a new identity, a cleverly constructed new background, but he never failed to recognize Katherine hiding in each new persona. He had encountered her and killed her again and again, but she would not stay dead. She knew how to come back from the grave, and her knowledge terrified him more than he dared let her know.

SPOILER

The killer had a mother – Katherine – who was raped and abused from a young age by her father. When he slipped in protection, he let his young daughter carry to term in hopes of another girl child. Instead, Katherine gave birth to twin boys, identical in any way. Her father died and during her birth, she had been told that both boys had been born with cauls on their heads which is kinda rare. Katherine took this to mean that her boys were conceived with Satan and they both had Satan’s mark instead of their lil pee-pees. Yeah, she was crazy and nobody knew any better than not let these kids go with her. The birth was hush-hush, the return too and since she told the village she was adopting only ONE child, she raised both kids to behave as ONE and would lock either one or the other in a hole in the ground filled with ROACHES.

END SPOILER

So guess who get together?

Still kissing her, he stroked her soft throat with his fingertips, then began to unbutton her blouse.

Hilary put her hand on his thigh, where the muscles were also tense beneath his slacks. Such a lean hard man. She slid her hand up to his groin

and felt the huge steeliness and fierce heat of his erection. She thought of him entering her and moving hotly within her, and a thrill of anticipation made her shiver.
He sensed her excitement and paused in the unbuttoning of her blouse to lightly trace the swell of her breasts where they rose above the cups of her bra. His fingers seemed to leave cool trails on her warm skin; she could feel the lingering ghost of his touch as clearly as she could feel the touch itself.
“Well, it was special for me,” Tony said, determined to thaw her. “It was perfect. Better than I ever thought it could be. Not just the sex. The being together. The sharing. You got inside me like no woman ever has before. You took away a piece of me when you left my place last night, a piece of my soul, a piece of my heart, a piece of something vital. For the rest of my life, I’m not going to feel like a whole man except when I’m with you. So if you think I’m going to just let you walk away, you’re in for a big surprise. I’ll put up one hell of a fight to hold on to you, lady.”
She had stopped folding the blouse. She was just standing with it in her hands, staring down at it.
Nothing in his entire life had seemed half so important as knowing what she was thinking at that moment.
“I love you,” he said.
Still looking at the blouse, she responded to him in a tremulous voice. “Are commitments ever kept? Are promises between two people ever kept? Promises like this? When someone says, ‘I love you,’ does he ever really mean it? If my parents could gush about love one minute, then beat me black and blue a minute later, who the hell can I trust? You? Why should I? Isn’t it going to end in disappointment and pain? Doesn’t it always end that way? I’m better off alone. I can take good care of myself. I’ll be all right. I just don’t want to be hurt any more. I’m sick of being hurt. Sick to death of it! I’m not going to make commitments and take risks. I can’t. I just can’t.”
“And you need me every bit as much as I need you,” he said. “Without me, you’re going to build that shell a little thicker, a little harder. You’re going to wind up alone and bitter. You have always been able to take risks with things—money, your career. But you haven’t been able to take chances with people. You see? We’re opposites in that respect. We complement each other. We can teach each other so much. We can help each other grow. It’s like we were each only half a person—and now we’ve found our missing halves. I’m yours. You’re mine. We’ve been knocking around all our lives, groping in the dark, trying to find each other.”
Blimey, hot hot fiction. This is gold.
However, as he lathered her breasts, the gentle, rhythmic, circular movements of his hands made her skin tingle and sent wonderful shivers through her. He cupped her breasts, filled his large hands with them, and her nipples hardened and rose through the soapy foam that sheathed them. He went to his knees and washed her belly, her long slim legs, her buttocks. For Hilary, the world shrank to a small sphere, to just a few sights and sounds and exquisite sensations: the odor of lilac-scented soap, the hiss and patter of falling water, the swirling patterns in the steam, his lean and supple body glistening as water cascaded over his well-defined muscles, the eager and incredible growth of his manhood as she took her turn lathering him. By the time they finished showering, they had forgotten how tired they were; they had forgotten their aching muscles; only desire remained.
On the fourposter bed, in the soft glow of a single lamp, he held her and kissed her eyes, her nose, her lips. He kissed her chin, her neck, her turgid nipples.

turgid

swollen, distended, overblown, pompous: The politician was known for his turgid prose.
As he moved within her, they became one body and soul in a way she had never been with any other man. And she knew Tony felt it, too, this unique and astonishingly deep bonding. They were physically, emotionally, intellectually, and psychically joined, molded into a single being that was far superior to the sum of its two halves, and in that moment of phenomenal synergism—which neither of them had experienced with other lovers—Hilary knew that what they had was so special, so important, so rare, so powerful, that it would last as long as they lived. As she called his name and lifted up to meet his thrusts and climaxed yet again, and as he began to spurt within the deep darkness of her, she knew, as she had known the first time they’d made love, that she could trust him and rely on him as she’d never been able to trust or rely upon another human being; and, best of all, she knew that she would never be alone again.
So did I mention I like Dean Koontz’s sexy writing prose? And the romance? And the men and women vs a strong adversary?
Tony didn’t bother to answer him. “We’ve got years and years together,” he told Hilary. “And here on, it’s all going to be good. For the first time in our lives, we both know who we are, what we want, and where we’re going. We’ve overcome the past. The future will be easy.”
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