Dean Koontz
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Starring Dean Koontz? You've Got to be Kidding!

My publisher’s Creative Marketing Department lives up to its name in every regard: The folks there are creative, they know marketing, and they have their own department. Considering that they also have to put up with me, they would be well advised to rename themselves the Patient Creative Marketing Department.

When they told me that they wanted to make two television commercials for THE DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR, I was so pleased that I opened a bottle of good cabernet sauvignon. When I learned that the first commercial would be a nicely written spot that featured the suspense of the novel, I put out some cheese to go with the wine, but when they said they wanted me to “star” in the second commercial, directly addressing the camera, I put the cork back in the bottle, went to bed, pulled the covers over my head, and sucked my thumb for a while.

I have done a number of television interviews over the years, but I do not enjoy seeing myself on camera. The first few times I was on network TV–usually on programs that were live to the East Coast–I watched myself when the show appeared here in California later in the evening. I didn’t like what I saw. This Koontz guy looked awfully shifty to me. He appeared to be up to something nefarious, and I wanted to call the FBI to suggest that they keep an eye on him, if not for reasons of national security, at least on general principles and in the interest of domestic tranquility. I warned myself never again to watch this Koontz character when he appeared on TV, for fear that the very sight of him would unhinge me or, at the very least, lead me onto some dark path from which I could never return.

Eventually, I got out of bed, uncorked the bottle of wine, and drank it with enough cheese to give me courage. (I don’t know why cheese gives me courage, but after enough mozzarella, I’m ready to do battle with just about anyone. Provolone turns me into a raging war machine.) Properly cheesed-up, I agreed to appear in the TV commercial.

When members of the Patient Creative Marketing Department showed up here at Koontzland with a 22-person crew to shoot the commercial, I began to whimper and to tremble with second thoughts. Fortunately, my assistant rushed a great platter of cheese to me, and I got through the ordeal just fine.

The Patient Creative Marketing folks were swell, as always, and the film crew was wonderfully professional and full of good humor, and the makeup technician told me that I have “good skin and really tight pores,” which at first disconcerted me but then filled me with such great pride that my life has been utterly and forever changed. Whereas Gerda would once have thought nothing of asking me to take out the garbage, she thinks twice about such a request now that she knows I will require her to explain why one such as I, with such magnificently tight pores, should be expected to do anything other than look pretty.

As good as the creative-marketing folks and the film crew were, however, the best thing about the day was the dogs. Our friends at Canine Companions for Independence drove up from Oceanside with two golden retrievers and two Labradors, who would take part in the commercial because, after all, THE DARKEST EVENING OF THE YEAR is a novel filled with dogs.

Originally, we thought that Trixie and I would do the spot, but when God saw fit to take her to Him on 30 June, the joy of filming with her was not to be. Nevertheless, in September, I felt our Trixie’s presence as I sat with the CCI dogs at one of her most favorite places on our property to film the commercial.

After tossing a ball and playing tug-toy with Violet and Sweet Pea (the golden retrievers) and with Susan and Danneli (the Labs), I sat with Violet to film the spot. During the first take, as the camera began to roll, my first words of copy were “I love dogs.” The instant that I had spoken this line, Violet–unscripted and with no encouragement–licked my cheek. This unsolicited kiss, as if directly in response to my proclamation, broke us up, and the first take dissolved in laughter.

After a while, as young Violet proved to be too energetic to sit still for all that was required of her, we brought Sweet Pea in as her understudy. Sweet Pea was ten years old and therefore a lot more mellow. We completed the commercial with surprisingly few takes and filmed other material for the Internet, as well. On the perhaps best take of all, as I came to a line about the beauty and the wonder of the human-dog bond, Sweet Pea leaned away from me, rolled on her side, exposed her belly for a rub, and reached out to me with one paw. With co-stars like this, even the shifty and nefarious Koontz can be made to look good!

— Dean Koontz, October 2007

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