Author Pat Conroy died of pancreatic cancer on Friday, Doubleday vice president and executive director of publicity Todd Doughty confirmed to the New York Times. He was 70.
Conroy was perhaps best known for mining his tumultuous childhood growing up in coastal South Carolina under an abusive father for fictionalized novels and memoirs, most notably The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and The Lords of Discipline, all three of which were adapted into major motion pictures.
“One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family,” Conroy said in a 1995 Vanity Fair profile. “I could not have been born into a better one.”
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While his books caused tension within Conroy’s family, the film adaptations increased his popularity amongst the pantheon of notable American authors. Barbra Streisand directed and starred in the film adaptation of The Prince of Tides, opposite Nick Nolte as the novel’s protagonist. The film was nominated for Best Picture at the 1991 Academy Awards.
“I write a straight story line, and I guess that’s what they need,” Conroy told Publishers Weekly in 1986. “The dialogue also seems to be serviceable in a Hollywood way. But most important, I do the thing that Southerners do naturally -- I tell stories.”
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Just a few weeks ago, Conroy announced his cancer diagnosis on his Facebook page.
“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,” the author wrote on Feb. 15. “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.”
“I have recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” he continued. “With the help of the wonderful people at M.D. Anderson I intend to fight it hard. I am grateful to all my beloved readers, my friends and my family for their prayers. I owe you a novel and I intend to deliver it.”
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South Carolina governor Nikki Haley posted her condolences on Twitter on Friday night.
“South Carolina lost a beloved son tonight,” Haley tweeted. “Pat Conroy will be missed. We can find comfort knowing his words and love for SC will live on.”