Pat Conroy, the bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, both of which became Oscar-nominated films, has died at 70. He announced just last month that he was suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Conroy channeled his difficult upbringing in his stories. “Writing has been not therapeutic for me, but it has been essential. I have written about my mother, my father, my family … and if I get it on paper, I have named the demon,” he told Morning Edition. The New York Times obituary goes into further detail:
Mr. Conroy had a brutal childhood. He was dominated by his sadistic father, Donald, a Marine Corps fighter pilot who beat his wife, drilled his seven children military-style to instill discipline and mercilessly abused his sons, first and foremost Pat, his eldest.
His mother, the former Frances Dolores Peek, known as Peg, was a gauzy romantic who denied her impoverished background and read “Gone With the Wind” to Pat at bedtime, casting family members in the starring roles. She taught her children to lie about the physical punishment meted out by their father.
Conroy’s most popular novel, The Prince of Tides, centers on the life of former football player Tom Wingo, whose family suffers great tragedy. Nick Nolte played the character in the 1991 film adaptation that co-starred and was directed by Barbra Streisand. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
Listen to Conroy discuss his childhood, below.