Unknown Steinbeck Mystery Novel Uncovered

John Steinbeck

In 1930, struggling writer John Steinbeck (East of Eden, The Grapes of Wrath) couldn’t find a publisher for a mystery novel with supernatural undertones he called Murder at Full Moon. As described by the Guardian, this is a book that both fans of the author and of early mystery would love to get their hands on, but it’s been kept in the dark in archives for over 90 years.

Set in a fictional Californian coastal town, Murder at Full Moon tells the story of a community gripped by fear after a series of gruesome murders takes place under a full moon. Investigators fear that a supernatural monster has emerged from the nearby marshes. Its characters include a cub reporter, a mysterious man who runs a local gun club and an eccentric amateur sleuth who sets out to solve the crime using techniques based on his obsession with pulp detective fiction.

The typescript even has two illustrations by Steinbeck. They depict the floorplan of the building where the murders took place, including the victims’ bodies. In the book, these are drawings made by one of the characters trying to solve the murders.

But the Steinbeck estate has blocked publication for decades, says The Guardian:

Now a British academic is calling for the Steinbeck estate to finally allow the publication of the work, written almost a decade before masterpieces such as The Grapes of Wrath, his epic about the Great Depression and the struggles of migrant farm workers.

“There would be a huge public interest in a totally unknown werewolf novel by one of the best-known, most read American writers of the 20th century,” said Professor Gavin Jones, a specialist in American literature at Stanford University.

“This is a novel that really nobody knows about. It’s a complete novel by Steinbeck. It’s incredible.”

The 233-page typescript has been stored in the vast archives of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin after Steinbeck’s unsuccessful attempt to have it published more than 90 years ago.

The full piece is here.

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About Linda L. Richards 63 Articles
Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.

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