In an era when hashtag campaigns to release director’s cuts of films are serious business on social media, a novel deemed by some scholars as not being serious enough for the reputation of John Steinbeck may never be available to fans of the Great American author, or fans of werewolf stories.
Yes, the celebrated Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men has a fully-realized werewolf novel in the archives of the University of Texas waiting to see the light of day (or night).
The only problem is that the caretakers of Murder at Full Moon are unwilling to consider releasing the novel to the masses.
In a recent interview with NPR, Gavin Jones, a professor of American Literature at Stanford University, said that the 232 page novel is “…often dismissed as a piece of juvenalia, not something to be taken seriously,”
He was also “…really surprised to discover that it was this complete typescript. It was not a fragment or some incoherent, sort of aborted project, but was a really complicated, interesting hybrid novel that lies somewhere between a murder mystery, a detective novel and a werewolf story.”
Steinbeck wrote the novel under a pseudonym (Peter Pym) in 1930, and the plot involves a series of mysterious murders (human and canine) that draw the attention of an intrepid reporter out to solve the case based on evidence that points to lycanthropy.
Likewise, Jones (and many other Steinbeck fans) aren’t willing to drop the case of the missing Werewolf novel so easily. In an interview with The Guardian, Jones advocated for the release of the hidden gem, asking “Why wouldn’t we want a complete novel by one of the best-known, most widely read American writers of the 20th Century? It gives us a kind of Steinbeck we never had.”
McIntosh and Otis, the literary agency in charge of Steinbeck’s estate, is “dead” set against the novel being published, arguing that the author left no instructions to publish Murder at Full Moon and that in the past, Steinbeck’s posthumous work was only realized “with his directions and the careful consideration of the Estate.”
Professor Jones thinks that McIntosh and Otis are depriving the public of a rare genre work by Steinbeck, which “…shows the influence of Edgar Allan Poe on Steinbeck and is an early version of the California noir detective fiction that would become popular in the decades to follow.”
Jones believes that is unclear to him if Steinbeck wanted the novel to remain unpublished as “Steinbeck did attempt to have the book published early in his career, and he did not destroy this manuscript as he did several others. Many authors have their works published posthumously, and write under pseudonyms.”
Stay tuned for further updates on the final fate of Murder at Full Moon and don’t be afraid to start a #ReleaseSteinbecksWerewolf campaign.