The Night the Band Played the Tennessee Waltz

Hey, out there,

I was flipping through some old journals of mine.  It has caused me much grief that I’ve never been completely seduced by the craft of journal keeping.  A laziness of soul takes over, and I abandon most of them over the course of a summer.  But I sometimes find that I’ve forgotten something that I’ve been lucky to forget.

On January 11, 2000, an event occurred in the Beaufort Presbyterian Church that took me by surprise.  Once a year, I accompany Mrs. Julia Randel to church, and she always gets the superb choir to sing “Blessed Assurance,” a hymn I fell in love with when her son, Derril, died at   age 34.  Tragically, Mrs. Randel has lost two sons, Derril and Randy.  She is my mother figure in Beaufort, bequeathed to me when her 15-year-old son died in front of me on a baseball field – a transfiguring scene in my boyhood.

After the services ended that day, a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and asked me how I knew Janet Tetu.

I turned around and said, “I had a crush on Janet Tetu when I was in eighth grade.”

“She’s my lawyer in Columbia, a great one.”

I called Janet Tetu Butcher that night.  Janet Tetu. They were, at one time, the most magical four syllables in the language to me.  I fell in love with Janet in the eighth grade class terrorized by the fiercest nun of my childhood, the dreaded Sister Mary Petra.  There was one sweet kid who sat directly in front of me, and he had an intestinal condition.  This poor creature would send out thunderous farts a couple of times a day which brought Petra’s wrath out of its cave.  She would clench her fist and knock – yes, I still remember his name – this poor boy out of his chair.  During a test in November, this boy let out a fart that could be heard at the White House.  Petra looked ready to kill as she jumped out of her chair and made her way to exterminate the gaseous one.  To my utter shock, the kid turned and pointed to me, “It was Conroy, Sister.  I swear it was Conroy.”

Before I could utter a word in my own defense, Sister Petra had put me on the floor with a fierce right cross that made my ear numb for the rest of the day.  Enraged by the injustice, I returned to my seat and my test, and prayed that the trembling kid in front of me would hold his fire for the rest of the afternoon.  He turned around to deliver anguished apologies for his action when Petra left the room.  I’d forgiven him long before the bell rang.

Later that year, the trollish nun spotted the pretty Janet Tetu passing a note in class.  Petra acted like Janet had spit on the Christ child and made her kneel on her knees for an hour praying for her immortal soul.  As we talked on the phone, Janet talked about the traumatizing effect that punishment had on her and that she refused to apply to a Catholic high school after that painful humiliation in front of her peers.  I told her I wished she’d passed a note every day during the school year because I had spent a pleasurable and voyeurish hour simply starring at her oval-faced beauty.

Janet admitted she did not remember me at all.  Nor could she come up with a single name of her female classmates.  The only name she could conjure up was the darkly handsome David Keaney who remains for me to this day the exemplar by which I measure all male beauty.  She also remembered liking a boy named Steve.

“That was Steve Lickweg,” I said, “He was a great guy.”

“How do you remember that,” Janet asked.

“I was lonelier than you?”

But Janet had given me some correlation of how I saw myself as a boy – that I was invisible to the world around me.  I asked her if she remembered a boy named Paul Kennedy, and she did not.  His parents gave him a graduation party at the Officer’s Club at Fort Myers and I was thrilled to be seated next to her.

“I don’t remember this at all,” she said, “Why were you thrilled?”

“Because I had a crush on you.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Of course you didn’t,” I told her. “I couldn’t even speak to a girl at that time in my life.”

“I didn’t know that,” Janet said. “Pat, I don’t remember anything you are talking about.”

“Of course, you didn’t, Janet.  But I can give you a glimpse of yourself that you didn’t know about.  I was afraid you wouldn’t talk to me that night.  But you were perfectly lovely – charming and friendly and dazzling – everything I hoped you’d be and more.  You wore a white dress.  You seemed to like me.  That meant everything to me.  I’ve pressed the memory of that night to my heart a dozen times and it happened over forty years ago, Janet Tetu.”

“You put my name in Beach Music.  That’s how I found you.”

“I’ve tried to thank everyone who was nice to me in my childhood – the list is not large.”

“There’s something you don’t know about me, Pat.”

“What’s that?”

“I stood in line to get Beach Music signed in Columbia.”

“Why didn’t you tell me who you were?” I asked.

“Because I didn’t know who you were,” Janet said. “I didn’t know I had a part in your life.  I was reading Beach Music while my husband was driving down to the beach when I came across my name, I let out a yell.  “Tetu—it means head-strong in French.”

“Margaret Evans worked for me as a research assistant for Beach Music.” I said, “She calls these things my little salutes. Your salute finally arrived, and this phone call is my pay off.”

“There are other amazing things, Pat.  My husband is a ’63 Citadel grad named Jim Butcher.  You signed his personal copy of The Lords of Discipline. My son is a Citadel grad, class of ’95.  He became an English major at the Citadel because he loved your work.”

“My mother knew all about you, Janet.  She studied you on the playground when she took her turn monitoring at recess.  She gave you a high approval rating and thought you had class.  From then on, whenever I liked a new girl, my mom would say, “She’s nice, Pat, but she is no Janet Tetu.  Before you, it was a girl in my kindergarten, and my mom would say, she’s nice, Pat.  Bur she’s no Muffett Adams.”

“You ever find Muffett?” Janet asked.

“I signed a copy of The Prince of Tides for her in Atlanta.  I told Muffett that because of her I know that a boy can fall in love with a girl at the age of five.”

“I saw you give a speech at the Thomas Cooper society and wrote you a long letter once.”

“I’m sorry we didn’t connect, Janet. I also associate you with olives.”

“Olives?” she said.

“At that same graduation, I saw you take something from a small dish and put it in your mouth.”

“You didn’t know what an olive was?”

“No, and I had asparagus that night for the first time. Mom didn’t run an adventurous kitchen.  So I walked on the wild side and popped that olive in my mouth.  I bit down hard on it and almost broke a tooth on the pit.  The pit was a complete surprise.  Because I was sitting by the woman I loved, I suffered a real dilemma.  The olive pit felt as large as a golf ball in my mouth.  I know I could not just spit the mangled, saliva-stained mess on to my plate.  Nor did I have a clue about what the etiquette of removing such a thing from my mouth.  So speechless, I sat there contemplating my next move.  Finally, I mumbled my excuses and made a dash to the men’s room where I spat the disfigured olive into my hand.  I slide the meat of the olive from the pit and tasted it.  That’s the first night I knew I loved olives.  When I returned I asked you to dance.  You were the first girl I ever danced with.  The band played the Tennessee Waltz, one of my Mom and Dad’s favorite songs. That was the night of the comely and adored Janet Tetu when she walked out of my life in a white dress, and stepped very prettily into her own.”

We’ll be friends for the rest of our lives.

Great Love, Pat Conroy

66 Responses to The Night the Band Played the Tennessee Waltz

  • Paul Davis says:

    Mr. Conroy, thanks for another great piece of writing. I am increasingly convinced that I would gladly read anything you wrote down, even your grocery list. I eagerly await your next book and thank you deeply for all the ones you have already written. I first read “The Great Santini” as a junior in High School and will never forget what it felt like to know for the first time that there were others out there who felt the same as I did. Needless to say I have read all of your books. Thanks for sharing your gift with your readers.

  • Kathy Canady says:

    I was fortunate enough to meet you in Raleigh at Quail Ridge Books when you had a book signing. I’ve enjoyed your books all my life, reading them again and again, and making sure my son did also. You are the ultimate writer as far as I’m concerned! Thanks for sharing your talents with us.

  • kerrie gleeson says:

    Lovely story Pat. More please. So looking forward to your next book.

  • Katie Striggow says:

    I am so glad to see another posting. I was beginning to wonder where you were. Another lovely story. I’m anxiously awaiting your next book. I just can’t get enough of the wonderful stories of your life. Your stories are addicting, probably because they hit so close to home. The beauty and compassion with which you write is unmatched. Please tell me that you’ll be at a book signing somewhere near Ft. Myers FL for your new release.

  • Kim says:

    This is every girl’s dream, you know…to be somebody’s Janet Tetu.

  • Jean Kellberg says:

    Sounds like a great book in the making. I recently joined an old High school alum site. I discovered how differently people saw me back then as opposed to the way I saw myself. I think it would be a great book topic

  • Kate Byers says:

    Thank you Mr. Conroy. I loved this piece. I laughed, I cried, and was given the gift of many recalled memories of Catholic School, Nuns, First Crushes and Mom & Dad’s dancing. Do you remember if your parents also loved ‘Harbor Lights’?

    I was reminded of your great works after meeting a friend of yours – John Warley. I found John at a little book store in Beaufort, while vacationing on Edisto Island and purchased a copy of ‘Bethesda’s Child’ that you had signed. Mr. Warley graciously enscribed my copy as well and I will treasure it always. This is when I also purchased ‘Beach Music’ and was joyfully reunited with your stories.

    Since I am recently retired, I look forward to catching up on your more recent works. I have read and enjoyed all of your books except ‘South of Broad’ which I’m saving for my beach vacation in September, and ‘My Reading Life’.

    I’m grateful to have found your blog and look forward to reading more remembrances. — KB

  • Frank Lourie says:

    I’m so excited to find this site and blog. Am an incredibly dedicated Conroy fan and so happy to find something new from him to read. Have read all his books numerous times and they just get better each time. I miss you Pat!!

  • Pat,
    You just refill my memories’ engines, from a paragraph where you’re quoted, to your works of our kindred Palmetto souls. My sister Marguerite met you at Duke a decade or so ago, when she was there outpatient care; and you were there with your father for the same. She spoke well of you, God Rest Her Soul. And I know your brother Jim through USC ties. It is you who are a critical part of our beloved state and the South as well. Please keep up the good work, sir ! A lifelong of thanks.

  • S. D. Ashley Cleveland says:

    You are my favorite author, and I have eagerly scooped up all your books as soon as each was available.  I have begun The Prince of Tides once again after having read it years ago.

    I was struck by the irony of your choice of characters’ names because my daughter and son-in-law have unwittingly named their three-year-old Luke and their one-year-old Lila.  And I am Mrs. Cleveland to my 7th grade  language arts students.

    Having grown up in a racist Southern, Delta town in the 1950s and ’60s, I am struck, once again, with the mean-spirited and bigoted emails I receive from Republican friends.   All I can do is refute those emails with forwards from sites that explain the origins of such outlandish claims about our president.

    I am truly not a political animal but see today’s ferocity in the presidential race as fodder for another novel by you.

  • I have only moments ago completed South of Broad. Another of your books filled with beautiful language and characters who have staying power. You are without a doubt one of, if not the best authors this country has ever produced. My 84 year old cousin who lives in Bend, OR and has a degree in writing from Pitt pronounced your hold on the reigning king of the written word and so I agree. My life was nothing like The Great Santini but I did grow up with a father who was a career Marine and lived a great deal of my growing up life in the southern states so feel a strong and emotional connection to your stories, so magnificently told.
    Thank you.

  • Although a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area (Marin Co/SF, I grew up in Hampton /Newport News after being born in Wilson NC and putting in tobacco on my grandfather’s tobacco farms and going to tobacco warehouses for auction…..the main reason for these extensive visits was an abusive father who tried to beat me senseless. Needless to say, your lovely Southern writing struck a mighty cord. I am writing my first book. A quick aside: Bill Styron lived next door to my family and about 20+ yrs ago, very briefly, I had a Nanny/Governess job next door to you on Fripp. Am currently reading My Reading Life with great pleasure. Thank you for the pleasure of your company.

  • Colleen Kissinger says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,
    Having grown up in the Air Force, I feel a kinship to you and all “military brats”. We learn a special brand of flexibility, and thinking fast on our feet!
    Your Prince of Tides was mind-boggling, and Beach Music is another sleep-depriving novel.
    I love the way you put your words together, in blogs as well as full-length features.
    By the way, Blessed Assurance is one of my old-time favorites as well. I read years back that the author, Fanny Crosby, was blind from infancy. She was quoted as having said she didn’t mind being blind, as the first face she was going to see was Jesus’.
    Take care, and God bless you.
    Colleen Kissinger

  • Vonda Coy says:

    Mr. Conroy, you always make me cry, but that’s a good thing. This story comes to me on a day when I have just made homemade pasta for the first time using the recipe in my autographed copy of your cookbook. You were kind enough to personalize my copy in Raleigh, NC on the signing tour for “My Reading Life”. Thank you so much for sharing your loves with us. I am humbled by your kindnesses.

  • Susie says:

    Mr. Conroy—I would very much—no I’m desperate—for advice from you. Your writings speak to my heart. Especially the pain in “The Prince of Tides”. I cannot resolve the dogs in my dreams. I am the Savannah of my horrible family. Do you have any advice for me? No therapist I have or have had is like Lowenstein…….

  • I am currently listening to South of Broad as a book on tape. This is the 3rd book of yours I have read/listened to and I’m blown away by your way with words. There is a depth here that is so rich and so pure that I can hardly breathe sometimes. And the humor is not just funny… it is hilarious because it is so surprising what you come up with. Tears come to my eyes so often with the joy of reading your work. Most likely you won’t even read this response as your praises are sung by so many. But my appreciation is so deep I had to write anyway. Just count me in with the multitudes who find you an astonishing special writer and human being.

  • Laurie Peterson says:

    Mr. Conroy,

    My husband and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Charleston, SC. The first time I read Beach Music, I told him that I had to visit South Carolina. Well, we finally made the trip! The people, the beach and the food were just marvelous. We loved the narrow streets and wonderful homes we passed walking through that magical town.

    I have read most of your books and have enjoyed them all, but my favorite is Beach Music. My friends and family know that they may borrow my Beach Music, but they know that they cannot keep it. My husband and I disagree on how many years we have to wait to re-read it!!


  • Sherol Lappala says:

    A month ago I picked up a copy of South of Broad at Wilmington NC’s Three Sisters Bookstore with the sole purpose of healing by immersing myself in enchanting images of my beloved Charleston. After only a few pages into the book it became apparent that there were deeper reasons for my chance selection of this book. Since my 16 year old son’s suicide in September, 2011 I have purposefully chosen to surround myself with images of beauty and gratitude in an attempt to somehow muster thought this unspeakable tragedy. But experiencing the impact of Steven’s suicide on Leo and his family by reading South of Broad somehow let me feel that there was someone out there who spoke my language and who understood how immensely unfair life can be, and yet how out of unspeakable horrors can spring forth beauty and light. Thank you Pat Conroy for putting light on a subject that many find difficult to acknowledge. Time does help to heal and South of Broad helped me to see that as I approach the anniversary of my beloved son’s death.

  • Stuart Mac Iver says:

    Mr. Conroy: I think I have read all of your books. Today I read “My Reading Life”. Tears of laughter were on my cheeks before I finished your description of dinner with Mr. Hara. Thanks. Another military brat.

  • Mr. Conroy,
    You are always kind to everyone at your events. I saw you in Atlanta a couple of years ago and you were very gracious, maybe even a little embarrassed at the attention. It made you human and increased my appreciation for you and your work.
    Thank you for sharing, again.

  • T. Vance says:

    Mr. Conroy,
    You are such a wonderful storyteller. You speak to my heart through your writing/books. My favorite was Beach Music, which I read years ago and will never forget. My husband and I just spent 2 weeks at the beach in S. Carolina. For some reason I always feel amazingly close to you just being there. I wish you were my friend. Bless you and your amazing gift, never stop writing.

  • Carolyn Jacobs says:

    It’s a Saturday in Jacksonville and teachers arrived at 7:30 this morning for a full conference day. I will start off the workshop I’m leading with the story of Pat Conroy and Eugene Norris. Teachers need to hear over and over just how much they matter.

  • Jennifer Zuleger says:

    Mr. Conroy,
    Paul Davis said it perfectly in the first comment to this post, “I am increasingly convinced that I would gladly read anything you wrote down, even your grocery list.”
    I don’t just read your books. Your writing allows me to feel them, see them, live them. Instead of skimming to get to the dialogue, you are the only author I’ve read who holds my attention and pulls me further into the story with descriptive prose. You do this so much so that I fell in love with Italy without setting foot there, simply from reading the beginning of Beach Music.

    My heartfelt wish is that the weight of your self-described tortured soul is lightened by all of the connections made with your readers, lives you’ve touched for the better.
    With admiration and gratitude,

  • Cynthia says:

    Really enjoy your books. I’m sorry it took so long to discover them! This latest on the gaseous one had me cracking up. As for Janet, it’s sad but very typical commentary on how we are in high school.
    Signed – A big fan

  • Susan Postier says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,
    You were the Southern gentleman I expected today at Tulsa Town Hall – taking time to stop and thank the patrons at every table. It will become one of my favorite memories that I had the honor to hear you speak and thank you for your work. Thank you for loving Tulsa!
    Susan Postier

  • Pamela from Aiken says:

    My, My – just like we were sitting on the front porch sipping some sweet ice tea listening to such a wonderful story………..I simply cannot get enough of Pat Conroy. The reading is easy, comfortable and real – I swear I could taste those olives and I could feel that pit in your “heart” too when your beautiful Janet walked away wearing that white dress. I loved your recollection of church and I remember as a young child being at the huge First Baptist Church in Aiken and when they sang the big opening hymn I left the balcony and headed for the gas station across the street, spent my offering on a coke cola and bag of peanuts I could hear the next big hymn signaling church was over and I ran back and made it to the balcony. Apparently the gas station owner tipped off my Daddy. EVERY Sunday after church we went to the Ice Cream Parlor, one Sunday Mama drove the car and Daddy and I walked the three blocks over that’s when Daddy said, “A little bird told me you’ve been sneaking out of church and going to the gas station what can you tell me about this?” WOW!!! “Too many birds in this town…” then I told him I didn’t think I was gonna make it to Heaven according to those preachers over there. “You’re 10 years old…” “Yes, sir, I KNOW, I’m doomed.” He took me to a different church every Sunday, just the two of us – Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, etc etc – despite Daddy being a Deacon at First Baptist he did this for me – I finally settled on St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church as did my two sisters, brother and Mother – Daddy stayed true to First Baptist but he was happy and so was I.

    • Shelia says:

      I loved this!! I loved it so much, that’s pretty much all I can come up. And it’s no small feat to make this girl speechless. :)

  • Joe Straw says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,

    There is something about your words that brings tears to my eyes and a rush of emotions that I cannot explain. It is possibly the wistful remembrances of growing up in the south, in a military town, that tears into the moral fabric I wear. In the end, after all is said and done, I feel a burden has been released from reading your books.

    Thank you.

    Joe Straw

  • Deb Krulicki says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,
    I read Prince of Tides several years ago. I had to keep stopping, sometimes I threw your beautifully, terrible book across the room and it would often be days before I would pick it up again from wherever it had fallen. I always picked it up again. The bond that forms between children when they suffer together during what should be an era of innocence is like no other bond in the world. We do not all thrive, let alone survive. And we do not all find Loewensteins. I will be forever grateful not just for the eloquence of your words but much more so for the beauty of the soul behind the words. In a world where we are so proud of our survivors of physical trauma, those who beat the odds against illness. We celebrate these survivors. And who would not kiss the surgical scars of their beloved and be grateful for the gift of their survival.
    Yet so many live in silent anguish because of the stigma attached to the psychic scars bestowed upon the most innocent of all victims, our children.
    I found my Loewenstein, some of my precious little group didn’t. Some are gone and the grief is a deep chasm, best kept to one’s own counsel. But what is missed the most, you develop a sort of gallows humour in that little group. It’s dark, obsidian, ebony, a night without stars or moon but funny as hell. Sometimes you’ll be laughing and realize no one outside your little group quite gets it. It walks a fine line, I sometimes miss it. It has a touch of hostility, a lot of irreverence.
    I occasionally find myself laughing that way again when I read your work. Thank you for that.
    The man who was the greatest victim in our home, the man who was ruled by his rage all his life is now trapped inside the shell of his being by strokes and Alzheimers. He has expressed deep remorse. Music has his transcended memory loss, a favourite song he would whistle when I was but a scrawny, wild little thing, “the Tennessee Waltz”. Now I sing it to him, he holds my hand and I stroke his hair. It is what it is.

  • Pat Conklin says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,

    The Marine Officers’ Spouses’ Club of Washington, DC would be honored to have you as our guest for our annual Toys for Tots Luncheon in Dec. 2012. Please contact me for more information!

    Thank you!

    Pat Conklin
    President, MOSCDC

  • Barbara Scott says:

    I read your words the same way I listen to music – enthralled by the passion and totally mystified by how anyone could put their thoughts to paper so beautifully.

  • Brenda says:

    A wonderful story! I’ve read all of your books and thirst for more. You are a great writer!

  • Lynn Tripson says:

    What a beautiful tribute. I am so glad I dropped by our site to check in. I will smile today thinking of this story.

    • I was reading Beach Music in the doctor’s waiting room the other day, and a man asked me how many months it would take me to finish such a big book. I told him about 4 days and he was amazed. I then realized that I didn’t want to be done with this story in 4 days. It has taken me 5 days and I didn’t cry until Lucy was dying. I have lots of time to read these days because my 92-year old mother is dying in my living room; very slowly. I will try and go to the Coast for a month if I can afford it when she passes and read all of your other books. What a treasure to look forward to. Thank God you loved your English teachers!

  • A.J. Craigie says:

    Mr Conroy…
    Thank you for your books. Each one has provided me with, well, I want to say pleasure, and pleasure it is to be the recipient of your gift with language… so, pleasure and tears, and laughter… and tears. Thank you. You have shown me that I can play with the language, use it prolifically in my own writing, without having to worry about the reader becoming purple to the elbows… all the best…

  • Nancy F Wilson says:

    Mr. Conroy,
    I have just finished reading South of Broad, and just had to write and tell you how much I loved the book. Now I am back to Beach Music.
    My husband and I have visited Charleston many times, and love the city so much!
    I could just see the streets as you wrote about them. When you mention Asheville, NC, I was just overjoyed since I knew you had visited my home town.
    I now live outside of Atlanta, GA, and hope you will be here again soon with a new book.
    I have read all of these great comments and know you deserve everyone of them.
    Hope to see you maybe one day in Charleston!
    Thanks again!

  • Ron Carter says:

    Pat, I was introduced to your books by Bill Higgs, an old friend that has spent most of his life in the low country. He died in June of 2011 and I miss him every day! So, on those days I pick up “South of Broad” and step back into that time that he and I were running together. He lived in Hilton Head, and spent a lot of time in Charleston. His daughter, Kathryn, just graduated from the College of Charleston and has decided to live there now. Thanks for helping me keep all those memories alive!
    Hope there is another book in the future.

  • carol bennett says:

    Mr. Conroy . We are reading your book The water is wide as our book club book for December and this Saturday I am going to talk with the other members about it. I asked my mom to read it also and she gave it back saying she didn’t believe it that you made the people too much like caricatures and no teachers could get away with the physical violence that you write about from Mrs. Brown. I have almost finished it but I told her today that I disagree that at that time in our history a closed system, like you had on that Island, could get away with just about anything. I am also a school teacher and know what school boards can be like. So I am wondering about Mrs. Brown was anything ever done about her and how true is this story?

  • Sallie says:

    Hello Carol Bennett, I am one of Pat Conroy students he taught when he came to Daufuskie. I know folks might not want to believe that Ms. Brown was that way and I am a witness to say yes she was that way. She was my teacher several years before Pat arrived. Today I am a writter of two cookbooks with stories… Pat was a wonderful man and I am proud to say that I had him as a teacher for the year he taught on Daufuskie. Please feel free to email me if you or anyone have any questions…

    • Cathy G says:

      Sallie, I so appreciate you comment. I tried to find follow up information about Pat’s students. I do believe he made a big difference in their lives. It would be so very interesting to see an interview of each of them and maybe their families too.

  • Sallie says:

    By the way, living on Daufuskie was very different for us and many things were not recognized. Pat was a blessing and some folks did not want him to educate us but he knew that it would not be fair. The book The Water is Wide is true. I am Ethel in it and I know that Pat wrote what he saw and was a part of…

    • carol bennett says:

      Thank you Sallie for responding to me. I will forward this on to my book group. One of our questions that we asked on Saturday was what ever happened to those children. You have helped to answer part of that. The people in my group love Mr. Conroy’s writing. Many of them have read all of his works. Maybe they have read your cookbooks also.

  • Cheri Austin says:

    Mr. Conroy – On a recent visit to the Low Country I had the pleasure of meeting you on the eve you were celebrating your birthday. Thank you for stopping by our table – we were on a ladies road trip to one of our favorite spots – Beaufort! So looking forward to the debut of your latest novel, which you told us you had just finished. The written word is so important in my life… particularly your written words… I hope you write forever and then some!

  • Dana Watkins says:


    My husband is a journalist and writer working on publishing his first books. He is a great fan of yours and today is his birthday. We are living in Ecuador currently and there aren’t many things he wants or needs for his birthday.
    I wanted to so something very special for him and I thought of you. His email address is
    He blogs at
    If you could drop him a line to say hello, it would mean so much today or even later, for his birthday.
    Thank you for your consideration,

    Dana Watkins

  • Robert(Bob)Padgett says:

    It’s been along time & as you say so often, time Flys. I was your (and always will be)your co-captain, under the direction of Mr. Jerry Swing… We spent a lot of time together, playing ball behind your home on Bay St. & we both had a key to the gym, thanks to, Bill Dufford… I haven’t seen you in years but have made it a point to keep up with you & your works… I have a Bro.&… sister still in Beaufort. I go there more often now & would LOVE to sit down with you & go back thru some memorys… Your Friend & CO-CAPTAIN, Bob Padgett

  • Pat, I just stumbled across the Jan. comment here from a lady who’d learned that you finished your most recently written novel. Best news I’ve ever gotten on an Ash Wednesday. Back in the early ’90′s, I traveled to central Mexico with the CEO of the family-owned firm employing me then. We visited the Spanish-style estate owned by a wealthy and powerful family there, while we considered a possible joint venture. The Mexican grandfather who’d built an empire of companies, maintained that home up with horse stables, a bull ring, and two tigers. The grandson of the founder hosted us that day and wandered off more than once answering his cell phone. While my boss and I stood for a minute or two admiring the caged tigers, my boss commented about his memory of the wildcat caged up within Prince of Tides. I hadn’t read that novel yet, but looked it up right after that trip. What a book. What a gift. That memory expressed by my boss surprised me. After reading that novel, though, I realized how wonderful the news had been…that Prince of Tides was worth reading and remembering. I fell in love with your style, with the substance built into your work, and with your sense of subject. Your talent is a gift for us. And, like so many people, I’ve been looking forward to your next novel. Hope you enjoy writing as much as you seem to. I enjoy reading whatever you produce. I have since I first discovered your work and the gift within it.
    J.P. Cunningham, author of SOMERSET and of THE EMERALD AMULET

  • Jack Clements says:

    Really, really need a new Pat Conroy novel. Anything on the horizon?


  • Tennessee Waltz? Les Paul and 2 or 3 accomplices beat the hell outta that song as witnessed by me an my elder American son 3 years and a few months ago, a few months before LES passed into the Great Recording Studio in the Sky at age 94

  • JustJanPlus5 says:

    It’s a quarter to two…there’s no one in the place, except me and you. And that’s just dandy. The miracle manifested itself when my Sonshine, Sean died. Weeks later, I was encouraged to “get out”, “go for a drive”… you know, everyone’s answer to despair. I was fortunate enough to hit the Goodwill book store on sale day. (Just so you know… I would have gladly paid full price). I held this book, “Beach Music” like it was precious cargo. I resented any interruption, such as, time, well-intentioned friends, phone calls, etc. I held Sean’s cremated remains, tucked in my pocket, while I read. I was one of those lost teens… some of my friends had older siblings in Vietnam, I was on the cusp. That uninteresting group that graduated in 72. I saw the black and white news reiterate the same verbiage night after night, but like Ladare..did not give it much of my interest. Frankly, I still don’t. To be honest, I did not read Prince of Tides… (but I saw the movie), read “South of Broad” and recognized your name on the bottom shelf, while scanning titles and authors at Goodwill, when I found this amazing book. (forgive the run on sentence). Just know, you have given me a few moments of peace, since the death of my son, by inviting me into your world. For a few brief moments, I can lose myself in your tales. Thank you. JB

  • Ditty Blake says:

    As I wipe the lemon/butter sauce off my chin, I wonder if I love Pat Conroy’s BEACH MUSIC best or his recipe for crab cakes… Drat ! too hard to choose! Guess ill have to try them both again.
    Thanks , Ditty Blake

  • Clarice Eisenbach says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy, I am from San Angelo, Texas, and I stumbled upon your books a few months ago starting with Beach Music. Upon finishing it, I immediately went to the library and checked everything that they had by you. I read so much so fast, I stuffed myself and can’t remember which details went with which book, so now I can read them again more slowly. Anyhow, I was fascinated by “The Great Santini” and “The Water Is Wide”. I ordered both movies from Amazon and they are now treasures.
    As a result of your books, I made a trip last week to South Carolina also researching ancestors along the way in NE Georgia. I wanted so much to see Daufuskie, but was advised it was difficult to get there and not worth the trip. So, I headed for just some islands in SC and saw Beaufort on the map. I remembered it from your books and that you had lived there so took an unplanned trip to Beaufort. Please know, that turned out to be the highlight of my vacation. It was everything I had wanted to see about the islands I’ve read so many stories about, including beach novels. It was a dream come true and especially when I found the small booklet telling about the movies made there. I visited the streets where you lived and one where you wrote “The Water is Wide”. Finally, I drove all the way out to Fripp Island just to say I’d seen where the great author lived. Coming back, I visited the lighthouse on Hunting and the park there. For an old West Texas lady who has lived near the desert all her life, you cannot imagine what a thrill it was to me to visit your countryside. Thank you for your books, all of them, and for opening up to me a new world to explore.
    Sincerely, Clarice Eisenbach

  • Virginia Feaster says:

    I thought of you today, as I listened to Prince of Tides on audiobook between home and work, and then again as my boss asked me to write a book about domestic violence for the DV shelter where I work. She thinks I can write, but I know who could write it. It’s everywhere around us Pat, hurting our children, warping our grandchildren. Write the book Pat, for children like the ones that come into our shelter and ask “Where’s Daddy?”, and I don’t know if they want to see him, or just want to make sure he isn’t here.

  • Fran Floyd says:

    Pat, I fell in love with you all over again today when I watched PRINCE OF TIDES again on Encore. I first got to know you in BEACH MUSIC and from there went on to P of T, the Great Santini, and all the rest. I love your passion, and that thing you do with words, but BEACH MUSIC tops then all in its range of relationships and emotions. My only regret is not knowing you when I lived in Charleston many years ago… wish I had read some of your work then so I could have seen and known the Low Country through your eyes. Guess the only thing to do now is read BEACH MUSIC again, and anxiously await what’s coming next.

  • Shelia says:

    I like everyone up there has commented love your gift. But after reading there comments, I am so humbled and proud of you. Everyone I know tells me to write a book. I am a natural storyteller, which is to say I talk alot and everything just comes out that way I guess and I have a lethal sense of humor. Cut my baby teeth on the same bad medicine that it seems many of your fans and yourself as well have. But life does what it wants and we adapt and the strong survive. I am STRONG. I’ve never seriously considered writing a book until today. Reading these comments has struck me with the relevance of your contribution. How we all like to think ourselves unique but live to learn it’s our similarities that make us the closest. Thank you for putting it all out there.

  • Superfluous Man says:

    Our Uncle Bubba tells us that there is another story to South of Broad, the South of Broad that Mr. Conroy never heard about. Our Uncle Bubba has many colorful stories of South of Broad when it was a racially integrated community back in the 1920s, 1930sand 40s when our Great Grandmother raised five daughters on Tradd Street, even after poverty struck when her husband,, who was music director at Broad Street theatre and ran Vaudeville in Charleston died from tuberculosis. Uncle Bubba has many colorful stories about the area, and besides all that our Uncle Bubba is a colorful figure himself and has more stories than anyone in the family about life as a young “Little Rascal” type of character himself when he was raised in the new lovely suburbs that our grandparents raised our mother and two young sons on Darlington Avenue on the Peninsula. We in the family even share something with Pat in that there are a number of suicides in the family all revolving around people who had some association with that house on Tradd Street in Charleston. Uncle Bubba is getting on in years and so is our mother but there are many untold stories about South of Broad that they have not been told and also the area that was once conisdered the nicer part of town, the suburbs around Darlington Avenue, more desirable than South of Broad to some as some of those houses on Tradd were becoming a little shopworn by the 1950s, those stories might be lost to history if some young journalist from the new school Pat is involved in isn’t assigned to get those untold stories of a very different South of Broad, the integrated community of South of Broad, that we know existed because Uncle Bubba’s’ stories are quite true. There could be another “The Water is Wide” in those stories. Even though many ladies get upset when they here about Uncle Bubba as a youngster in the Little Rascal era and Stooges era , which he lived up to quite dutifully before he got his college education and moved away for a number of years, but now is back and lives on a little island near James Island, one that many people don’t know exists. And then also, Pat might enjoy the movie below, although he probably saw it at least once before.,268

    Contact us if someone is interested, we don’t have permission, but Uncle Bubba likes telling his stories and it could probably be arranged. I don’t want those stories to get lost to history.

  • Cathy G says:

    Mr. Conroy, I just finished reading THE WATER IS WIDE. I enjoyed every word of your beautifully written book. I graduated from Mt. St Mary’s College, Los Angeles, in 1964 certified to teach elementary school. After my student teaching In Brentwood, I went to Milwaukee to teach while my husband was in medical school. I was assigned to an inner city school. I was thrilled with the assignment thinking that I was prepared and ready to do everything right and good for people who needed me. I was set on my ear the first week with my failure. Having grown up in an AZ small mining town and never having been around a black person, I was completely unprepared for the challenge. Culturally and every way I had an overwhelming task. I maintained my determination and enthusiasm to make a difference in my short 2 year career there with some success. I so appreciated and identified with your experience. Thank you for the recalled and shared memories.

  • Bill Curry says:

    Hi Pat,
    Your old football buddy here, hoping you are doing well. I have loved South of Broad and My Reading Life since we last spoke. Now, my wife Carolyn is re-writing her doctoral dissertation to convert it to book form. Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas was born wealthy on a plantation near Augusta, lived through the Civil War, lost everything, and heroically rose up to lead the Women’s Suffrage movement, all while keeping a diary 41 years. She was Scarlett O’Hara with brains and a moral compass. Carolyn thinks you would like her book. I do too. I know you have a deadline, but you might enjoy her wonderful work. Be that as it may, we love you, your work, your spirit, and your legacy. Warm regards,
    Carolyn and Bill Curry

  • Bob Fielitz says:

    I enjoyed this story as I have all of your books. I hope you publish another one soon! Having read all of your books including your cook book, I was disappointed that a person who loves to cook and loves the Low Country didn’t have a recipe for SheCrab soup!!

  • steven cahalane says:

    Mr. Conroy, the only thing wrong with anything you write, is that it ends.

  • Karen C. says:

    A few years ago my husband and I visited an island in SC and fell in love with it. We purchased a piece of property and began vacationing there three or four times each year. Coming from the north, I have very little knowledge of the south other than that which I’ve read in the history books. I became curious about life in such a place and began reading your novels to get a glimpse into the history. My favorite thus far, The Water is Wide, blew me away. Coming from a very protected, large family of an average middle-class background, I would have never believed life could be such as it was on that island at that time. Thank you for opening my eyes. I have since read several of your books, and love them all; I look forward to reading every one. Having finished South of Broad last night, I am left with two questions. First, I was left wondering what would have been Trevors reaction to the shed incident? Is there a reason why you left that out? My second question, why did you choose to jump back and forth in the story instead of writing it in chronological order?

  • Sarah McMillin says:

    Thank you. So very much.

  • Carol Everest says:

    Lucky Janet Tetu.

  • Pat:
    I hope you might consider visiting with the Atlanta WW II Round Table for one of our upcoming lunch/meetings, and maybe being a speaker for us once you get to know us.

    If you’ll provide an email address, I can keep you up-to-date on the meeting, speakers, et al.

    Best Regards,

    John E. Kovach
    Atlanta WW II Round Table
    4173 Jody Court NE
    Marietta, GA 30066-1921
    Tel: 770-928-4579 (Home/Office)

  • Vicki Lambert says:

    Simply… I’ve read your books for years, and I delay the ending of each one. Each word, phrase is so well crafted it establishes a link heart/brain/emotion that is seldom found. Your body of work is so completely connective as all the greatest novelists (and I have read a bunch!) European, russian, french, british italian (mostly plays) as well as the Americans we have called “classics”. I am re-reading “South of Broad”… it melts me.
    Thank you.


  • Nancy Oliver says:

    Hi Pat,
    I’m Janet Tetu Butcher’s daughter, Nancy. At first, I didn’t believe her when she told me her name and Valentine’s Day story was Beach Music, and then she sent me the book. And now I came across this blog post. It reminded me that I wanted to thank you for sharing your memories of your Virginia school days and youth with my mother. They brought back so many memories for her. I thought it was odd that she had no recollection at first, but it all makes sense to me now. Life is pretty funny and full of coincidences and ironies. Hope to meet you when I visit my parents in SC sometime in the future. In the meanwhile, I am enjoying your book, The Death of Santini.
    Thank you again and happy 70th!
    Nancy Butcher Oliver

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