A Younger John Steinbeck’s Unpublished Werewolf Novel Is not Going To Print : NPR

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American author John Steinbeck, 1940 Pulitzer Prize winner for his novel The Grapes of Wrath and 1962 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, in an undated photo. An early, unpublished Steinbeck novel is about brutal murders and a werewolf. AP hide caption

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American author John Steinbeck, 1940 Pulitzer Prize winner for his novel The Grapes of Wrath and 1962 Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, in an undated photo. An early, unpublished Steinbeck novel is about brutal murders and a werewolf.

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A dog is found murdered in a full moon murder at the hunting club in Cone City, a fictional location on the central California coast. Then the club’s Swedish chef is killed. More deaths follow.

New in town, the young reporter “Egg” Waters tells the story of a series of brutal murders that appear to be the work of a werewolf. An amateur working on the case develops a crime solving theory based on the crime novels he has read.

So does the plot of Murder at Full Moon, an unpublished novel by literary giant John Steinbeck, which received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962 and is better known for its stories about life in the American West during the Great Depression.

John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature from King Gustav of Sweden in Stockholm in 1962. AP hide caption

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John Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature from King Gustav of Sweden in Stockholm in 1962.

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“It’s often dismissed as a youth play, which shouldn’t be taken seriously,” said Gavin Jones, a professor of American literature at Stanford University, who read the novel and shared details with NPR.

“I was really surprised to discover that it was this complete typescript. It wasn’t a fragment or an incoherent, abandoned project, but a really intricate, interesting hybrid novel, somewhere between a crime fiction, a detective novel, and a werewolf -History, “said Jones.

Steinbeck wrote the 233-page novel under a pseudonym in 1930, before publishing works such as Von Mäusen und Menschen and The Grapes of Wrath that would make him famous. Now Jones, who has just researched and written a book on Steinbeck, is urging the late writer’s estate to publish the novel for everyone to read, as was first reported in The Guardian.

“Why don’t we want a full novel by one of the most famous and widely read American writers of the 20th century?” Asked Jones. “It gives us a kind of Steinbeck that we never had.”

But like the lycanthrope at the center of his story, Steinbeck’s unpublished novel is unlikely to see the light of day.

McIntosh and Otis, the literary agency responsible for Steinbeck’s estate, told the newspaper that since Steinbeck did not want to publish the novel during his lifetime, he would not send the book to print.

In a separate statement, the company said it was wrong to view full moon murder as a “job lost” because academics have been able to study it for years. (The novel, written under the pen name Peter Pym, is located in the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.)

The agency added that Steinbeck’s works were published posthumously “with his instructions and careful examination of the estate,” including “Journal of a Novel”, “A Life in Letters”, “The Deeds of King Arthur and His Noble Knights” and “working days”.

Even so, Jones – and probably many Steinbeck fans – would like to see the story in print and believe this could help shed new light on his work.

For example, Jones said that the novel depicts Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on Steinbeck and is an early version of California noir detective fiction that would become popular in the decades that followed.

In a broader sense, says Jones, it underscores Steinbeck’s interest in studying how people can transform into other states of being. The subject also appeared in a Steinbeck short story in which a woman transforms into a plant, as well as in Sea of ​​Cortez, a kind of travel narrative in which he ponders how people can adapt to be more “in sync” with the To be nature, said Jones.

Jones suggested that it was unclear to him whether Steinbeck wanted the novel to go unpublished, and whether that desire would outweigh the cultural benefits if it were made available to the public.

“Emily Dickinson didn’t publish very many of her poetry in her lifetime either. So is it the people who published Emily Dickinson’s poetry who are taking advantage of Emily Dickinson? I think not,” he said. “They give readers the opportunity to decide for themselves about the merits of a literary work.”