Pat Conroy, who turned the tales of his painfully dysfunctional family into best-selling novels such as "The Great Santini" and "The Prince of Tides," died on Friday at the age of 70, his publishing company said.
Conroy, who had announced in a Feb. 15 Facebook post that he had pancreatic cancer, died at his home in Beaufort, South Carolina, surrounded by family and loved ones, said Todd Doughty, a spokesman for Doubleday.
“The water is wide and he has now passed over,” said his wife, novelist Cassandra King Conroy.
Much of Conroy's work was inspired by a dark muse — his father, U.S. Marine Colonel Donald Conroy. The elder Conroy was a fighter pilot who fought in four wars — World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the long-running conflict with his family. He was a tyrant who beat his wife and children.
"I remember hating him even when I was in diapers," Conroy wrote in the prologue of "The Death of Santini," the memoir that put to rest his feelings about his father, as well as serving as a postscript to the novel "The Great Santini."
Hollywood loved the emotional aspects of Conroy's works and "The Water Is Wide," "The Prince of Tides" and "Lords of Discipline," as well as "The Great Santini," were all made into successful movies.
Conroy once told People magazine that his books were an effort to explain his life to himself, which was a complicated undertaking.
He was one of seven children in a family that, due to his father's military assignments, moved 23 times before he was 18.
Conroy's mother did not know how to deal with his father much beyond designating hiding places for the children to run to when a rampage started. As the oldest child, Conroy often tried to intervene when trouble started, which meant that he took the brunt of his father's cruelty.