Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The New Pat Conroy Novel

Pages from Conroy's manuscript

It has been almost 14 years since Pat Conroy published Beach Music. 22 years since The Prince of Tides. In the intervening years, he's done a memoir on basketball from his years playing at the Citadel. He wrote his passion project, a cookbook with essays and stories. Yet in the back of his mind, he's always had the idea for the big Charleston novel, a story that's been brewing since he moved from San Francisco back to the east coast in the mid-nineties. He's had things to say about the Holy City since he last left it (fictionally) in The Lords of Discipline in 1980.

South of Broad should be out next September. For those who expect the inevitable delays with a Conroy novel (Beach Music was delayed for years), I would say rest easy. The novel is finished; it's edited (original manuscript weighed in around 1400 pages), and no one is happier about that than Mr. Conroy himself (perhaps Sandra, his wife, is happier).

The novel will be big, epic, like the others (final book weighs in somewhere around 600 pages). Stylistically, Pat remains acute in his sensitivity, sprawling in his images, and is still the overwriting show-off that I love him for--except even better. He continues to grow as a writer, a claim he's shy about, but one I think is true.

Leo, his protagonist, is a newspaper reporter in Charleston, and a large chunk of the plot revolves around a serial killer and a high-profile murder in the 1980s (all invented [no ripping from headlines here]). But Conroy has not morphed into the thriller writer by any stretch. His main character remains the Lowcountry of South Carolina, his story centers more around relationships and his eminently likeable Joycean protagonist. At the height of the novel's intensity is a mind-blowing chapter involving the serial killer and Hurricane Hugo (the still legendary storm that leveled Charleston and several towns to the north in 1989). If you are a Conroy connoisseur, you can look forward to a novel that recalls The Prince of Tides and Beach Music in terms of scope and style.

Note: As a favor, and because I love Pat dearly, I typed the last third or so of the book, but because I am still first a fan (I will do a big blog entry soon on my friendship with Pat), I asked him not to send the final two chapters. I have not read the entire novel and don't want to until it comes out. I want the all-absorbing experience of curling up on the couch on a rainy day, cracking the cover on a big new Conroy book, and swimming in his worlds--just like you do.


Kaye Barley said...

Oh Oh Oh! This is just the BEST news. The very best news ever.
It is, I'm sure, too early to have an answer for this question - or perhaps not.

My husband and I were living in Atlanta when BEACH MUSIC came out and we, of course, went to Mr. Conroy's signing. My first edition personally inscribed and autographed copy of BEACH MUSIC is one of my treasures. As is remembering the conversation we had regarding Fripp Island. Mr. Conroy stood up, left his chair, leaned against the table and chatted with us at length about Fripp, acting as though we were the only people in the room with him at the time. I was honored by his attentiveness, and completely in awe of his graciousness. If I had not been a huge fan before, that did it.

Anyway. Back to my original question. We are no longer in Atlanta, but living in a teeny town in the North Carolina mountains. Do you know, if there will be a bookstore that I'll be able to order an autographed first edition of SOUTH OF BROAD from?

Just discovered your blog by the way - Very Nice!

Kaye Barley

Sam Houston said...

Thanks for that great sneak preview (and cover shot), Sean. You made my day. I'm off to link back to you now. :-)

Jen said...

So, so, so looking forward to this novel. Thanks for the post!

Aleksandra said...

Great news! I loved "The Prince of Tides" and "Beach Music". I will look forward to the new novel!

Michael Shay said...

Grew up in the South but now live in Wyoming. I've been a fan of Pat Conroy's novels since "The Great Santini." His memoir, "My Losing Season," really touched me. I eagerly await the new novel.

KC said...

Learning that my all time favorite author, Pat Conroy, has a brand new book to savor is the best news I have had since the birth of my grandsons.

I learned of Pat Conroy from my oldest son, who graduated from The Citadel in 1990. After reading The Boo, I found that my friend, John Bowdich was also a Citadel grad.

Pat's book are so delicious to me that when reading Prince of Tides, I could smell the marsh in his description.

I savor each word; and unlike some critics, to me the longer the book the better I like it.

Thank your Mr. Conroy! I am so looking forward to South of Broad.

Giantman said...

I am enthusiastic to read his latest work. I am even more so hearing about its subject matter. I attended the Citadel during the late 80's and, as you can imagine, Mr. Conroy was a bit of a folk hero, be it a banished one at the time. I also had the pleasure of living through Hurricane Hugo so I will be fascinated to see his interpretation of that time in Charleston.

Paul said...

Great news. Pat Conroy is by far my favorite author. I love to read his bookis slowly, so I can absorb the beauty of his writing. I wish he were more prolific, but the wait has always been worth it.

Laurie Larsen said...

I'm a HUGE HUGE Pat Conroy fan and of course I, along with the rest of the fans, am salivating while waiting for South of Broad's release. Meanwhile, you said you were going to write a blog entry about your friendship with Pat. So, grace us already!!

LuAnn Brannigan said...

Money could not buy the experience I had attending the induction of Pat Conroy into the SC Hall of Fame this week. He is as fascinating to hear speak as he is to read. Many of his family, friends, and former associates were there. I loved the discussion of his mother, and the stories he told. I CANNOT WAIT until September for South of Broad.

LoLa said...

I'm linking too.