Pat Conroy's bestselling novels have made the Atlanta-born writer one of the most highly praised, most widely-known Georgia authors of the past half-century.
Donald Patrick Conroy grew up as the oldest son of an autocratic military man and a mother who instilled in him a love of literature and language. His father's harsh emotional and physical and violence toward the family became "the central fact of my art and my life." Torn by conflicting loyalties and emotions, Conroy's heroes rebel against oppressive situations and institutions that are ruled by exclusive, rigid concepts of manhood, school and race. Meanwhile, they struggle to survive family tragedy past and present, and attempt to emerge from the emotional and external turmoils intact, with a sense -- wounded and imperfect -- of worth and belonging. Conroy has identified Thomas Wolfe as an early, influential literary model, and critics typically note how, like Wolfe, Conroy favors expansive, lyrical prose and his stories center upon family relationships that are typically laced with a strong (identifiably Southern) sense of place.
When he was in high school, Conroy's family finally settled in Beaufort, South Carolina, and the low country "Coastal Kingdom" between Charleston and Savannah which the author has adopted as his home usually plays a prominent role in his works. The Boo , his first book, was an admittedly amateur effort composed as a tribute to a beloved assistant commandant at the Charleston military college that he attended, The Citadel. Conroy's second work, The Water is Wide, recorded his turbulent year as an elementary school teacher of poor black children in a throwback rural, racist school system on isolated Daufuskie Island, S.C. Twentieth Century Fox adapted the book into a successful movie --Conrack -- in 1974.
Conroy's next two works were novels of gradually increasing commercial success that marked the author's rise to best-seller status. Hollywood's successful adaptation of The Great Santini, the coming-of-age story of a young man in a love-hate relationship with an abusive father who is a Marine fighter pilot, secured Conroy's recognition as a writer of considerable gifts. In the movie, actor Robert Duvall portrayed a cinematic character so memorable as to approach the emblematic, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Colonel "Bull" Meecham, the eponymous "Great Santini" (and the fictionalized representation of Conroy's own father). In 2013 Conroy published The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and his Son, an account of growing up with his father’s abuse and the path the men traveled to reach their own particular reconciliation.
On the heels of Santini's success, The Lords of Discipline -- a thriller that involved a secret fraternity carrying out the covert agenda of a repressive and racist Southern military college -- was likewise adapted to the screen and made the paperback bestseller lists of both the New York Times and Publishers Weekly as a result. Conroy's next book, The Prince of Tides, drew literary critics' praise and lifted his popularity into the top echelon of successful novelists. A story of a man struggling with a nervous breakdown against the backdrop of a tormented family history, The Prince of Tides spent fifty-one consecutive weeks on the New York Times' hardcover bestseller list. The book sold 350,000 first-run copies -- as of 2004 total sales topped five million -- which led to a blockbuster movie for which Conroy co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplay.
Conroy's fourth novel followed a Charleston man living in Italy with his young daughter, grappling with his wife's suicide and a series of painful family relationships. More mildly received than The Prince of Tides, but a best-seller as well, Beach Music (1995) was also sold to the movies for seven figures (and awaits production).
Conroy's My Losing Season (2003) uses the narrative tools of fiction to revisit the biographical drama and emotional turmoils of Conroy's college basketball season of 1966-67, a year in which the Citadel team he captained went 8-17. Originally subtitled A Point Guard's Way of Knowledge, Conroy's creative memoir recounts the team's losing season under a harsh, disciplinarian coach, counterpoised against Conroy's own driving love for the game that had afforded him his only, occasional refuge from his own strained relationship with his abusive father. In yet another twist on the conventional memoir, Conroy's Recipes from My Life (2004) is "my autobiography in food and meals," twenty-one chapters of autobiographical essays coupled with 100 related recipes from his life in the South, Rome and Paris.
Pat Conroy's many literary awards include the Georgia Governor's Award for Arts (1978), the Southern Regional Council's Lillian Smith Award for fiction (1981) and the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust's Humanitarian Award (1996). Identified by the New Georgia Encyclopedia as a contemporary Georgia writer of note, Pat Conroy lives with his wife, novelist Cassandra King, on Fripp Island, SC. His upcoming novel, South of Broad, is scheduled for publication in late 2009.
Conroy’s South of Broad, a sweeping novel of friendship and marriage set in Charleston, South Carolina, was published in 2010. In 2013, Conroy released the non-fiction work The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.
Pat Conroy died at his South Carolina home at the age of 70 from pancreatic cancer.
Photo of Pat Conroy by David G. Spielman. Copyright 1997 David G. Spielman.
The following titles may be found in the Hall of Fame Library:
The Boo. Verona, Va.: McClure Press, 1970:
The Water is Wide. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. 
The Water is Wide. New York: Dell Pub. Co., 1973, c1972.
The Great Santini. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
The Great Santini. New York: Avon Books, 1976.
The Great Santini. London: Collins, 1977.
Introduction to Dear Heart (By James L. Townsend. [Conroy Manuscript]) 1980?
The Lords of Discipline. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
The Boo. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1981.
The Lords of Discipline. London: Secker & Warburg, 1981.
The Lords of Discipline. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1982.
The Lords of Discipline. London: Corgi, 1982.
The Prince of Tides. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.
Die Herren der Insel. [Prince of Tides. German.] Bergisch Gladbach: Lubbe, 1987.
The Great Santini. New York: Bantam, 1987.
The Prince of Tides. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.
The Prince of Tides. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1987, c1986.
The Water is Wide. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.
The Boo. Atlanta, GA: Old New York Book Shop Press, 1988, c1970.
Le Prince des Marees. [The Prince of Tides. French.] Paris: Presses de la Renaissance, 1988.
Le Prince des Marees. [Prince of Tides. French.] Publisher: Montre´al : Laffont, 1988.
The Water is Wide. Atlanta: Old New York Book Shop Press, 1990.
The Lords of Discipline. Atlanta, Ga.: Old New York Book Shop Press, 1991, c1980.
The Boo. Marietta, Ga.: Mockingbird Books, 1993.
The Great Santini. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.
Beach Music. New York: N.A.Talese, 1995.
Cancao do Mar. [Beach Music. Portuguese.] Sao Paulo, SP: Editora Best Seller, 1995.
Beach Music. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.
Beach Music. [Beach Music. French.] Paris: Albin Michel, 1996.
The Prince of Tides. London: Black Swan, 1996.
Der Gesang des Meeres. [Beach Music. German.] Bergish Gladbach: Bastei Lubbe, 1998.
Thomas Wolfe. Atlanta: Old New York Book Shop Press, 2000.
My Losing Season. New York: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2002.
The Great Santini. New York: Bantam Books, 2002.
The Lords of Discipline. New York: Bantam Books, 2002.
Beach Music. [Beach Music. Italian.] Milano, Bompiani, 2003.
La Mia Stagione no. [My Losing Season. Italian.] Milano: Bompiani, 2003.
Saison Noire. [My Losing Season. French.] Paris: Albin Michel, 2003.
The Great Santini. Atlanta: Old New York Book Shop Press, 2004.
The Pat Conroy Cookbook: Recipes of My Life. New York: Nan A. Talese, 2004.
South of Broad: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 2009.
My Reading Life. New York: Doubleday, 2010.
The Death of Santini. New York: Doubleday, 2013.
Special Collections Department of the Emory University Libraries in Atlanta, Georgia holds some of Conroy's manuscripts and screenplay drafts.
Born: Oct. 26, 1945
Died: March 4, 2016
Beaufort, South Carolina