Ultimately, however, Dubus' own life - filled with love yet fraught with tragedy and loss, is more compelling than any narrative he could have concocted in his imagination.
Rhode Island filmmaker Edward Delaney takes on the author's life story in the documentary "The Times Are Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus," opening the fourth Newburyport Documentary Film Festival on Sept. 28.
While the movie runs just 85 minutes, it represents volumes of interviews and research, originally amounting to 44 hours of footage.
"It was very difficult," said Delaney, who produced, filmed and edited the project.
"There were so many great stories. The first cut (of material) I felt I couldn't live without was almost three hours long. I just really wanted to get it under 90 minutes."
Delaney, a journalist and Roger Williams University professor, filmed here in the Merrimack Valley, where Dubus lived most of his adult life, and as far away as California. Among the local spots featured is Kelly's Restaurant in the Bradford section of Haverhill, known in Dubus' time as Ronnie D's bar.
Following the screening in Newburyport, Delaney and Dubus' children Suzanne of East Kingston, N.H., and Andre III, of Newbury, will host a question-and-answer session.
While the two Dubus children heard positive things from people who saw the film at a Rhode Island screening, neither has seen it yet.
"I know I don't want to see it for the first time with everybody else," said Suzanne, who will try to get a viewing before the festival. "You hate to blubber."
Andre III said, "I have the same fear. I might be bawling like a baby."
He, however, will watch "The Times Are Never So Bad" for the first time along with everyone else at the local debut.
"I am a big believer in the truth," said Andre III. "I hope it shows something true about my dad."
Andre Dubus died from an apparent heart attack at age 62, after being hit by a car more than a decade earlier and losing the use of his legs. He was married and divorced three times and fathered six children.
"I guess I always want people to know how dedicated he was to the craft of writing. That was the best part of him," Andre III said. "I am not saying the other parts are bad parts, but it was the best part. It took a lot of discipline and drive to create what he did."
Delaney met Andre III, author of the best-seller "House of Sand and Fog," at a literary awards event. The two got to talking about the elder Dubus, whom Delaney had met briefly and admired. The idea for a film took hold.
"When I was moving from newspaper writing to fiction writing, Andre Dubus - his writing was a model of what good fiction writing could be," Delaney said.
Others who wanted to write a biography or make a film about the elder Dubus had knocked on his children's doors in the past. However, Delaney's enthusiasm gave Suzanne and Andre III faith that he could complete the project.
"I liked what he was trying to express," said Suzanne, who is featured in the film. "I felt good about it from the start. It was nice. When a parent dies, you don't normally have a chance to revisit your memories. It was nice to have the opportunity to revisit all of that."
Andre III, also featured in the film, said he's willing to do "anything that keeps my father's name out there and his books alive - his work deserves to live on."
What Suzanne would like people to know most is that her father had flaws, but he was a good person.
"Because my dad was a vivacious man, I think he came across as arrogant," she said. "The truth was he was anything but arrogant. I want people to remember he was a human being on a spiritual journey, as we all are, trying to be a better person."
The screening for "The Times Are Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus" will take place in Newburyport on Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Firehouse Center for the Arts and the Screening Room at 82 State St. The film will also be aired at New England Film and Video Festival in October and at Emerson University in Boston, with no date set yet.
Andre Dubus, writer and father
Born: Aug. 11, 1936, in Lake Charles, La. Died in Haverhill on Feb. 24, 1999, at age 62.
Military: Six years in the Marine Corps, rising to the rank of captain.
Teaching: Bradford College professor from 1966 to 1984.
Married: Three times
Tragedy strikes: Dubus was driving from Boston to Haverhill in 1986 when he stopped to help disabled motorists on Interstate 93. He was hit by a car and eventually lost the use of his legs.
Helping hand: Well-known writers such as John Updike, Stephen King and Kurt Vonnegut held a fundraiser to help his family after the crash.
Movies: Two films were made based on his fiction - "In the Bedroom," based on the short story "Killings," and "We Don't Live Here Anymore," based on his short stories "We Don't Live Here Anymore" and "Adultery."