John Steinbeck Werewolf Book: Y'all Gotta Release It - Comic Years
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John Steinbeck Werewolf Book: Y’all Gotta Release It

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BY May 23, 2021

So there I was, getting up bright and early at the crack of dusk. Whew, time to stretch. And, although I don’t like to admit it, time to check my phone. Instead of going straight to messages, to my group chat and my work Slack, though, I decided to look at the news my phone has curated for me. Some of it is hopelessly irrelevant for me. However, in between the stories about exercising and the good ol’ Grateful Dead, there was one that stands out. There’s a John Steinbeck werewolf book?!

Tell Me About the Werewolves, George

john steinbeck werewolf book image (from The Howling, another California werewolf story) via Shout Factory

Now I consider myself to be pretty well-educated. Although I solely attended Alabama public schools, they’re a lot better than you might think, at least in my experience. Accordingly, I read a lot of Steinbeck. Starting in middle school, when we read Travels with Charley, up to high school, where we pored over The Grapes of Wrath, among others, our curriculum definitely wasn’t light on his work. But now y’all are telling me I could have been reading some Steinbeck werewolf stuff the whole time?!

As the Senior Possible Werewolf at Comic Years–see, like, literally almost everything I’ve ever written here, like my piece two weeks ago on an Indigenous werewolf anthology–it should be obvious that I am, at best, miffed. So how is it I’ve never heard of this book before? And as always, why the eff would you show me something if I can’t have it?

The John Steinbeck Werewolf Book Is Real and I Want It

According to The Guardian story, which is where my troubles began, Steinbeck wrote the novel, which publishers rejected, ’round about 1930. He titled it Murder at Full Moon–love it–and like a lot of his works, it’s set in California. As the title might suggest, it’s about a bunch of murders that take place during full moons. As they continue on, some folks start to suspect there’s a supernatural component. *heavy breathing*

john steinbeck werewolf book image via Shout Factory

Steinbeck, however, didn’t write the 233-page book under his own name. He used the name Peter Pym, perhaps because the subject matter is so different from his usual stuff. Still, though, Gavin Jones, a professor at Stanford, says, “Even though it is very different from Steinbeck’s other work, in a totally different genre, it actually relates to his interest in violent human transformation – the kind of human-animal connection that you find all over his work; his interest in mob violence and how humans are capable of other states of being, including particularly violent murderers…It’s a whole new Steinbeck – one that predicts Californian noir detective fiction. It is an unsettling story whose atmosphere is one of fog-bound, malicious, malignant secrecy.”

I’m going to pass out. And maybe that’s a good thing because Steinbeck’s literary agency, McIntosh & Otis, has declined to publish the novel. Because the author didn’t write it under his own name, and because he didn’t publish it when he was alive, they’re not gonna. Uh-huh. Well, he also didn’t destroy it, as he did with two other early novels. Unless he outright said, “Don’t publish my werewolf book, babes,” then I’m not sure we can say that was his wish.

Publish the Book, Be Heroes

Of course, I’m speaking somewhat selfishly. I’m speaking solely from a deep and abiding need to read the John Steinbeck werewolf book. Like, can you imagine? It could be the Great American Werewolf Novel. But we might never know.

Until the folks at the agency change their minds–ahem, perhaps due to public pressure–then I’m just going to hope someone at the Harry Ransom Center, which holds the manuscript, takes pity on my soft wolfy heart. But for real, allow the publication. Let me read the book. Please?

featured image (of a book Steinbeck wrote that was surprisingly not about werewolves) via Penguin

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at salome@comicyears.com.

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