Coyne, John 1940- (John P. Coyne)
Coyne, John 1940- (John P. Coyne)
Born 1940, in Chicago, IL; son of Thomas and Mary Coyne; married Judith Wederholt (an editor). Education: St. Louis University, B.A.; Western Michi- gan University, M.A.; attended Georgetown University and George Washington University.
Writer. Worked for Peace Corps in Ethiopia, 1962-67, Peace Corps headquarters, 1994-2000; State University of New York at Old Westbury, dean of students, 1968-70; College of New Rochelle, manager of communications, 2000—. Editor, Peace Corps Writers Web site.
(Editor) Better Golf, Follett (New York, NY), 1972.
(Editor) The New Golf for Women, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1973.
(With Tom Herbert) By Hand: A Guide to Schools and Careers in Crafts, Dutton (New York, NY), 1974.
(Editor) The Penland School of Crafts Book of Jewelry Making, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1975.
(Editor) The Penland School of Crafts Book of Pottery, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1975.
(With Tom Herbert) Getting Skilled: A Guide to Private Trade and Technical Schools, Dutton (New York, NY), 1976, 2nd edition, National Association of Trade and Technical Schools, 1982.
(With Jerry Miller) How to Make Upside-down Dolls, Bobbs-Merrill (Indianapolis, IN), 1977.
Playing with the Pros: Golf Tips from the Senior Tour, Dutton (New York, NY), 1990.
(Editor) Going Up Country: Travel Essays by Peace Corps Writers, Scribner (New York, NY), 1994.
(Editor) Living on the Edge: Fiction by Peace Corps Writers, Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), 1999.
The Piercing, Putnam (New York, NY) 1979.
The Legacy (based on the film of the same title), Berkley, (New York, NY), 1979.
The Searing, Putnam (New York, NY), 1980.
Hobgoblin, Putnam (New York, NY), 1981.
The Shroud, Putnam (New York, NY), 1982.
Brothers and Sisters, E.P. Dutton (New York, NY) 1986.
The Hunting Season, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987.
The Fury, Warner (New York, NY), 1989.
Child of Shadows, Warner (New York, NY), 1990.
The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2006.
The variety of books that John Coyne has produced throughout his career reflects his many interests. The author's two "Penland School of Crafts" books contain conversations with craftsmen from the famous Penland School in North Carolina, as well as instructions in each craft. The Penland faculty members are among the best craftsmen in the country and have earned the school a fine reputation in its field. New York Times Book Review contributor Beth Gutcheon had praise for Coyne's books on the Penland method of pottery and jewelry making, saying: "If you have some experience in one of these crafts, and if the work and the talk in these handsome books fails to move you, feel your pulse to see if you're alive."
In addition to the craft books, Coyne has written about golf instruction and college alternatives, as well as penning numerous horror novels. The Piercing, his first novel, tells the story of the rape of twelve-year-old Betty Sue Wadkins, molested in the Appalachian woods by the devil, who is disguised as a hillbilly. Soon after, Betty Sue becomes a stigmatic, bleeding from wounds in her hands and feet each week. Five years later this fact becomes public and, as a Critic writer described: "Betty Sue is turned into a full-flowing stigmatic who does her thing on National TV." The same reviewer called the novel a "putrid puddle of gagging, sensational, tasteless, ultimately pointless fiction," while Michele Slung in the Washington Post Book World contended that Coyne "has concocted a swift-moving plot, one that's intelligently done, if not terribly subtle" and commented that the book provides readers with "an interlude of ghastly pleasure."
Coyne followed The Piercing with The Legacy, adapted from the feature film by Jimmy Sangster. The plot follows a group of "six people [who] are invited to the remote home of a rich but dying man who promises to make one of them heir to all of his wealth and occult power," wrote Don D'Ammassa in his essay in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers. Naturally, the guests begin perishing one by one in mysterious ways until only two remain. D'Ammassa noted that the author had pulled off a rare feat: writing a movie novelization that was "a much better work than the mediocre film upon which it is based."
Another Coyne work, Hobgoblin, a tale of terror centering on a role-playing game, was criticized by Joseph McLellan in the Washington Post for its "loose ends and failures of character motivation." Ultimately, though, McLellan found the novel "a decent story about life in a small town high school, and the problems for a new boy in town who is rather shy and withdrawn and handicapped by a preppy background. [Coyne] is very good at characterizing the young thugs who tend to dominate the scene in many high schools these days, and he is intriguing in his invention of ‘Hobgoblin,’ an elaborate, complex game of the ‘swords and sorcery’ genre, based on Old Irish legends and played with cards, dice and a dazzling variety of exotic characters."
Coyne went on to produce The Shroud, "a partial reprise of The Piercing," according to D'Ammassa. He continued: "This time the manifestation is of a brooding man in funeral garb, who appears mysteriously to a troubled young priest. Is this the figure of Jesus Christ, a miracle of some similar variety, or is it a temptation sent by the minions of Hell?" D'Ammassa also noted Coyne's 1987 work, The Hunting Season—with its young protagonist exploring the odd communal culture of her new home town—as the author's "strongest novel, controlled, intelligent, and nicely resolved."
Coyne's "The Fury, on the other hand, was very disappointing," wrote D'Ammassa. This horror story begins comfortingly, with a lead character who is "outwardly the perfect urban professional, attractive, intelligent and self-confident. But she conceals a dark secret." When enraged, Jennifer Winters regresses into prehistoric frenzy, resulting in violent attacks. Jennifer, it turns out, "is the reincarnation of an ancient hunter, and she eventually is locked in combat with another of her kind." Unfortunately, D'Ammassa, continued, "the plot this time is painfully contrived. Muggers and other villains just happen to cross her path frequently enough to provide several deaths and dismemberments. By the time she gets to her real enemy, the reader is likely to be jaded by the destruction or uninterested in the survival of either party."
In 1990's Child of Shadows, "a return to [Coyne's] better form" in D'Ammassa's words, urban social worker Melissa suffers burnout and moves to rural North Carolina with an untamed child she has rescued from a subway. Their new life is complicated by hostile neighbors whose fears of the boy "are bolstered by a series of murders and mutilations," observed D'Ammassa.
Coyne's novel, The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan, tells the story of a young man, Jack Handley, who works as a caddy at an exclusive club in Chicago. Jack finds himself caddying for a practice round prior to the Open between his own friend and assistant pro Matt Richardson and Ben Hogan. In addition to the stressful session, Jack is aware that Matt is seeing the daughter of the club president, a secret that weighs on his mind. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called the book "a terrific blend of golfing lore, PGA tournament drama and country club soap opera." In a Q&A on his own Web site for the book, Coyne explains his choice to write a fictional story based on the real-life Hogan: "What I find so special about Hogan was his ability to hold himself apart from the scene. He was part of the action, a central part, but he was contained within himself. I think that's the reason so many stories are still told about him. Golfers are still trying today to discover the secret of who he was."
In examining the author's shorter works, including the story "Snow Man," about the personal tribulations of a Peace Corps volunteer (the author is active in that organization), D'Ammassa concluded that while his individual stories had much to offer, "John Coyne is clearly more at home with the novel." Coyne appears to be more successful in his efforts to edit a collection of the short fiction of other writers, as evidenced by Living on the Edge: Fiction by Peace Corps Writers. Coyne notes that a large number of former Peace Corps volunteers are writers, and that because of this, their experiences often flavor their work. He includes the work of such notable authors as Paul Theroux, Marnie Mueller, and Norman Rush, among others. Donna Seaman, in a review for Booklist, remarked that the stories "get to the heart of the human endeavor as they write about language, food, custom, social and familial politics," and many other subjects.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Booklist, April 15, 1999, Donna Seaman, review of Living on the Edge: Fiction by Peace Corps Writers, p. 1514.
Critic, February 1, 1979, review of The Piercing.
New York Times Book Review, December 7, 1975, Beth Gutcheon, reviews of The Penland School of Crafts Book of Jewelry Making and The Penland School of Crafts Book of Pottery, p. 74.
Publishers Weekly, March 27, 2006, review of The Caddie Who Knew Ben Hogan, p. 57.
Washington Post, December 19, 1981, Joseph McLellan, review of Hobgoblin.
Washington Post Book World, March 25, 1979, Michele Slung, review of The Piercing, p. C5.
The Caddy Who Knew Ben Hogan Web site,http://www.thecaddiewhoknewbenhogan.com (May 6, 2007).