Hailed as "America's most popular suspense novelist" (Rolling Stone) Dean Koontz has entered a rich new phase of his writing career that is yielding his most imaginative, meaningful, and popular work yet. At the height of his powers as a literary craftsman, he has won the acclaim of critics as well as the allegiance of millions of fans the world over, transforming the greatest fears and hopes of our time into masterworks of dazzling originality and emotional resonance. Now, with the stunning depth and virtuosity of his storytelling, he brings to readers one of his most gripping and richly imagined novels to datean intoxicating story of adventure and suspense, mystery and revelation, told with humor, heart, and high art. One Door Away From Heaven In a dusty trailer park on the far edge of the California dream, Michelina Bellsong contemplates the choices she has made. At twenty-eight, she wants to change the direction of her troubled life but can't find her wayuntil a new family settles into the rental trailer next door and she meets the young girl who will lead her on a remarkable quest that will change Micky herself and everything she knowsor thinks she knowsforever. Despite the brace she must wear on her deformed left leg, and her withered left hand, nine-year-old Leilani Klonk radiates a buoyant and indomitable spirit that inspires Micky. Beneath Leilani's effervescence, however, Micky comes to sense a quiet desperation that the girl dares not express. Leilani's mother is little more than a child herself. And the girl's stepfather, Preston Maddoc, is educated but threatening. He has moved the family from place to place as he fanatically investigates UFO sightings, striving to make contact, claiming to have had a vision that by Leilani's tenth birthday aliens will either heal her or take her away to a better life on their world. Slowly, ever more troubling details emerge in Leilani's conversations with Micky. Most chilling is Micky's discovery that Leilani had an older brother, also disabled, who vanished after Maddoc took him into the woods one night and is now "gone to the stars." Leilani's tenth birthday is approaching. Micky is convinced the girl will be dead by that day. While the child-protection bureaucracy gives Micky the runaround, the Maddoc family slips away into the night. Micky sets out across America to track and find them, alone and afraid but for the first time living for something bigger than herself. She finds herself pitted against an adversary, Preston Maddoc, as fearsome as he is cunning. The passion and disregard for danger with which Micky pursues her quest bring to her side a burned-out detective who joins her on a journey of incredible peril and startling discoveries, a journey through terrible darkness to unexpected light. One Door Away From Heavenis an incandescent mix of suspense and humor, fear and wonder, a story of redemption and timeless wisdom that will have readers cheering. Filled with tragedy and joy, with terror and hope, it solidifies Dean Koontz's reputation as one of the foremost storytellers of our time. This is Dean Koontz at his very bestand it doesn't get any better than that. From the Hardcover edition.
Dean Koontz was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensberg University) and won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition while still a senior. Dean landed his first job after graduation with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where his assignment was to counsel and tutor underprivileged children on a one-to-one basis. On the first day of work, he discovered that his predecessor had been beaten up by the very children he had been trying to help and had landed in the hospital for several weeks.
The following year was filled with challenges, but Koontz never gave up on his desire to be a writer. He wrote at night and during weekends, a practice he continued after leaving the poverty program and becoming an English teacher in a suburban school district outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
After Dean had taught for a year and a half in Harrisburg, his wife, Gerda, made him an offer he couldn't refuse: "I'll support you for five years," she said, "and if you can't make it as a writer in that time, you'll never make it." By the end of the five years, Gerda had quit her job to manage the financial side of her husband's writing career.
Dean Koontz's books are published in 38 languages. Worldwide sales total more than 175 million copies, and that figure currently increases at a rate of more than 17 million copies a year. Ten of his novels have risen to number one on The New York Times hardcover best-seller list (Lightning, Midnight, Cold Fire, Hideaway, Dragon Tears, Intensity, and The Husband). His books have also been number one bestsellers in countries as diverse as Japan and Sweden.
The New York Times has called his writing "psychologically complex, masterly and satisfying." New Orleans Times-Picayune said Koontz is, "at times lyrical without ever being naive or romantic. [He creates] a grotesque world, much like that of Flannery O'Conner or Walker Percy. . . scary, worthwhile reading." Of Cold Fire, a worldwide bestseller, the United Press International said, "An extraordinary piece of fiction. It will be a classic."
Dean has written the screenplay for the film adaptation of his novel Midnight, and he wrote and served as executive producer on The Face of Fear for Warner Brothers-CBS Television. Phantoms, based on the author's screenplay and starring Peter O'Toole and Joanna Going, is in production at Miramax. Intensity has been filmed by Peter Guber's Mandalay Entertainment as a miniseries for the Fox Network and is scheduled to air in the spring of 1997. Mandalay and Fox will team up again to develop Sole Survivor.
Dean and Gerda Koontz live in southern California.
From the Hardcover edition.
THE WORLD IS FULL of broken people. Splints, casts, miracle drugs, and time can’t mend fractured hearts, wounded minds, torn spirits.
Currently, sunshine was Micky Bellsong’s medication of choice, and southern California in late August was an apothecary with a deep supply of this prescription.
Tuesday afternoon, wearing a bikini and oiled for broiling, Micky reclined in a lounge chair in her aunt Geneva’s backyard. The nylon webbing was a nausea-inducing shade of green, and it sagged, too, and the aluminum joints creaked as though the lawn furniture were far older than Micky, who was only twenty-eight, but who sometimes felt ancient.
Her aunt, from whom fate had stolen everything except a reliable sense of humor, referred to the yard as “the garden.” That would be the rosebush.
The property was wider than it was deep, to allow the full length of the house trailer to face the street. Instead of a lawn with trees, a narrow covered patio shaded the front entrance. Here in back, a strip of grass extended from one side of the lot to the other, but it provided a scant twelve feet of turf between the door and the rear fence. The grass flourished because Geneva watered it regularly with a hose.
The rosebush, however, responded perversely to tender care. In spite of ample sunshine, water, and plant food, in spite of the regular aeration of its roots and periodic treatment with measured doses of insecticide, the bush remained as scraggly and as blighted as any specimen watered with venom and fed pure sulfur in the satanic gardens of Hell.
Face to the sun, eyes closed, striving to empty her mind of all thought, yet troubled by insistent memories, Micky had been cooking for half an hour when a small sweet voice asked, “Are you suicidal?”
She turned her head toward the speaker and saw a girl of nine or ten standing at the low, sagging picket fence that separated this trailer space from the one to the west. Sun glare veiled the kid’s features.
“Skin cancer kills,” the girl explained.
“So does vitamin D deficiency.”
“Your bones get soft.”
“Rickets. I know. But you can get vitamin D in tuna, eggs, and dairy products. That’s better than too much sun.”
Closing her eyes again, turning her face to the deadly blazing heavens, Micky said, “Well, I don’t intend to live forever.”
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, but nobody does.”
“I probably will,” the girl declared.
“How’s that work?”
“A little extraterrestrial DNA.”
“Yeah, right. You’re part alien.”
“Not yet. I have to make contact first.”
Micky opened her eyes again and squinted at the ET wannabe. “You’ve been watching too many reruns ofThe X Files
“I’ve only got until my next birthday, and then all bets are off.” The girl moved along the swooning fence to a point where it had entirely collapsed. She clattered across the flattened section of pickets and approached Micky. “Do you believe in life after death?”
“I’m not sure I believe in life before death,” Micky said.
“I knew you were suicidal.”
“I’m not suicidal. I’m just a wiseass.”
Even after stepping off the splintered fence staves onto the grass, the girl moved awkwardly. “We’re renting next door. We just moved in. My name’s Leilani.”
As Leilani drew closer, Micky saw that she wore a complicated steel brace on her left leg, from the ankle to above the knee.
“Isn’t that a Hawaiian name?” Micky asked.
Excerpted from One Door Away from Heaven: A Novel by Dean Koontz
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