Pat Conroy, the beloved author of The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and other best-sellers who drew upon his bruising childhood and the vistas of South Carolina and became one of the country's most compelling and popular storytellers, died Friday evening. He was 70. The Post & Courier frames his death as "an ironic turn worthy of a novelist." Though Conroy—who had battled diabetes, high blood pressure, and a failing liver—had lately "taken serious steps to improve his health," he died less than a month after announcing that he had pancreatic cancer. His death came at home, among family and loved ones in Beaufort, South Carolina, reports the AP. "The water is wide and he has now passed over," his wife, novelist Cassandra Conroy, said in a statement.
His books sold more than 20 million copies worldwide, but for much of his youth he crouched in the shadow of his abusive father, Marine aviator and military hero Donald Conroy, who "thundered out of the sky in black-winged fighter planes, every inch of him a god of war," as Pat Conroy would remember. The author was the eldest of seven children in a family constantly moving from base to base, a life readers and moviegoers would learn well from The Great Santini as the 1976 novel and subsequent film, which starred Robert Duvall as the relentless and violent patriarch. The Prince of Tides, published in 1986, secured Conroy a wide audience, despite uneven reviews for its story of a former football player from South Carolina with a traumatic past and the New York psychiatrist who attempts to help him. It was made into a hit 1991 film starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand.