(1945- ) US writer who established an early reputation for sf, beginning his career with "Kittens" for Readers & Writers in 1966. He started to publish energetic, brooding adventure tales with "Soft Come the Dragons" for F&SF in 1967; it became the title story of Soft Come the Dragons (coll 1970), one of at least 20 sf books of interest. In his later career, DRK has concentrated on Horror – since the 1970s he has become of central importance in that genre – and has had decreasing recourse to supernatural explanations for his tales. He has also written as David Axton, Brian Coffey, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Anthony North, Richard Paige, Owen West and Aaron Wolfe; in recent years he has republished much of this pseudonymous output under his own name.
Though DRK is not of particular fantasy importance, and (as in his pure horror tales) often uses Technofantasy imagery to provide a "rational" explanation for seemingly supernatural events (> Rationalized Fantasy), some of his Dark Fantasies are of interest. They include: The Crimson Witch (1971), in which a young American is translated by Portal into a Fantasyland where he encounters a talking Dragon and other unsurprising figures; The Haunted Earth (1973), in which aliens cause Crosshatch chaos by imposing a mix of the mundane and the supernatural; Darkness Comes (1984 UK; vt Darkfall 1984 US), in which supernatural rats (> Mice and Rats) assault the world; Twilight Eyes (1985; exp 1987 UK), whose protagonist possesses the Talent of being able to perceive (> Perception) Goblins who inhabit human shape, but flicker; Strangers (1986), whose cast foregathers in a Nevada motel to discover they form a gestalt in communication with good aliens; the children's book Oddkins (1988), in which the eponymous line of Toys comes to life (> Animate/Inanimate) when its maker dies; Dragon Tears (1993), which features a fabulated Los Angeles venue, Talking Animals, a Rat-King which constructs itself into a Golem, protagonists and antagonists with Talents, and an abiding sense of thoroughly secularized Millennial Fantasy; and Mr Murder (1993), which is really sf/horror, though the relationship between a persecuted writer and the manufactured Double which wants to take over his life (> Real Boy) gives the tale an air of dark fable – the book can be seen as a Technofantasy response to Stephen King's The Dark Half (1989). Over the years DRK has increasingly complexified his use of various genres, sometimes confusingly, sometimes intriguingly. [JC]
other works (selected): The Funhouse ... Carnival of Terror * (1980; rev 1992), first published as by Owen West, movie novelization; The Mask (1981), first published as by West; Twilight (1984; vt The Servants of Twilight 1985 UK; vt Twilight 1988 US), first published as by Leigh Nichols; The Bad Place (1990); Hideaway (1992).
Dean Ray Koontz