Released in May 1995, Strange Highways is a short collection of 12 stories, all showing how an apparently good human can actually be a murderer. Each story has a twist and each story is filled with suspense as well as a longing for something better.
The novels included in this book are:
- “Strange Highways” (novel): a failed author returns to his hometown after many years to attend his father’s funeral, only to find himself suddenly and inexplicably thrust back through time to relive a traumatic event from his past. His successful brother was actually a cold blooded killer and he knew about it and chose to igore it as not to bring any pain to his old parents. After the funeral is over, on the road back home, he is faced with a fork in the road that was not there before. It was the same fork he had seen years ago when he chose to ignore it and continue his life. Now he walks on the old road not chosen before and finds himself thrust back into time when he was just in high school and his brother had only started his killing spree. He saves the girl and stops the monster and ends up having a beautiful happy end. The story is good in many levels but the best message that comes across is: Never try to walk away from going the good in face of evil. It will destroy you and the ones you love.
- “The Black Pumpkin”: a twelve year old boy tries to stop his cruel brother from buying a black pumpkin from a creepy pumpkin carver. He buys the pumpkin anyway, and later that night gets what he deserves. The story is about innocence and retribution. The pumpkin spares his life because the boy had done nothing wrong, just endured the abuse of his older brother and the neglect of his parents.
- “Miss Attila the Hun” – a story about a school teacher who is loved by her husband and kids alike. An alien seed is growing in the forest ouside town and once it catches a hunter, it begins to expand and dominate more minds. Playing with people as a favourite past time, the seed collects more and more bodies until he reaches the class of Miss Attila the Hun. There, the alien learns that Love is more powerful than dominance and finds that the hosts he had chosen refuse to kill the people they love most. Sad end for the seed.
- “Down in the Darkness”: after a couple buys a new house, the husband discovers a mysterious door that leads to a dark cellar. The cellar is endlessly going in the earth and the further he descends, the more voices he keeps hearing, whispering voices asking, inquiring. When he finds out that the previous owner of the house was the master of torture from when he was a war prisoner, he leads him into the cellar and leaves him there for the unknown monsters to take him. Being a good man at start, he starts seeing endless possibilities in the dark evil cell and he starts making a list of people he wants to get rid of. The novel ends with the chilling line: “He never thought the list would be this big”.
- “Ollie’s Hands”: a young man with extraordinary psychic abilities and his tragic attempt to pursue a relationship with a woman whose life he saves. Sad story indeed. Driven to the homeless life, he avoided contact with people because his abilities, be they godly, they alienated him from people who feared him. When he saves this woman, he clears her mind from addiction, loneliness and starts building a close relationship with her until one day, she realizes that he is in her mind. She becomes frightened of him and wants to leave. Sadly, he erases all memory of him and lets her return to her normal life. So lonely, so lovely. Forever alone.
- “Snatcher”: a purse snatcher steals a purse from a strange old woman, only to find that he’s made a terrible mistake. The purse hides a monster that eats him.
- “Trapped”: a woman and her son trying to fend off an attack by giant, mutated rats.
- “Bruno”: a private eye and a “probability cop” from another dimension hunt down a dangerous alien.
- “We Three”: three siblings with special powers eliminate the rest of mankind, thinking that they’re the “new race”, but soon one of them is pregnant with a creature even more powerful who just might eliminate them.
- “Hardshell”: a wounded cop stalks a killer through an abandoned warehouse, but there’s more to this seemingly stereotypical situation than meets the eye.
- “Kittens”: the first short story Koontz ever sold. A girl learns the truth about God “taking her kittens to Heaven”, and she decides to get even.
- “The Night of the Storm”: a group of intelligent robots go on a hunting trip in the woods, where they learn that the myth of “human beings” may not be a myth after all.
- “Twilight of the Dawn”: a devout atheist who finds his lack of faith challenged in the wake of his son’s painful death from cancer.
- “Chase” (novella)
When he was a senior in college, Dean Koontz won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition and has been writing ever since. His books are published in 38 languages. He has sold 400,000,000 copies, a figure that currently increases by more than 17 million copies per year.
Twelve of his novels have risen to number one on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list (One Door Away From Heaven, From the Corner of His Eye, Midnight, Cold Fire, The Bad Place, Hideaway, Dragon Tears, Intensity, Sole Survivor, The Husband, Odd Hours, and Relentless), making him one of only a dozen writers ever to have achieved that milestone. Fourteen of his books have risen to the number one position in paperback. His books have also been major bestsellers in countries as diverse as Japan and Sweden.
The New York Times has called his writing “psychologically complex, masterly and satisfying.” The New Orleans Times-Picayune said Koontz is, “at times lyrical without ever being naive or romantic. [He creates] a grotesque world, much like that of Flannery O’Conner or Walker Percy … scary, worthwhile reading.” Rolling Stone has hailed him as “America’s most popular suspense novelist.”
Dean Koontz was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University), and his first job after graduation was with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where he was expected to counsel and tutor underprivileged children on a one-to-one basis. His first day on the job, he discovered that the previous occupier of his position had been beaten up by the very kids he had been trying to help and had landed in the hospital for several weeks. The following year was filled with challenge but also tension, and Koontz was more highly motivated than ever to build a career as a writer. He wrote nights and weekends, which he continued to do after leaving the poverty program and going to work as an English teacher in a suburban school district outside Harrisburg. After a year and a half in that position, his wife, Gerda, made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “I’ll support you for five years,” she said, “and if you can’t make it as a writer in that time, you’ll never make it.” By the end of those five years, Gerda had quit her job to run the business end of her husband’s writing career.
Dean Koontz lives with his wife, Gerda in southern California.