In his meandering new memoir, “The Death of Santini,” the novelist Pat Conroy alludes in passing to his own precarious mental health. “In the decade of the nineties,” he writes, “I was having breakdowns at regular intervals and was suicidal much of the time.”
I had the misfortune to encounter Conroy during that rocky period. In 1995, the author and I, along with his publicist, were dining at one of his favorite Charleston, S.C., restaurants, Slightly North of Broad. The occasion was a Philadelphia Inquirer interview about his latest novel, “Beach Music,” and his tendency to turn family conflict into compelling, if sometimes melodramatic, fiction.