Give Us John Steinbeck's Werewolf Pulp Fiction, Cowards
Before John Steinbeck published The Grapes of Wrath - a novel that made early 20th-century folk clutch their pearls and screech “SOCIALISM!” - the Nobel Prize-winning author wrote a pulp fiction murder mystery featuring a werewolf. Yes, a goddamn werewolf.
It’s like finding out Ernest Hemingway wrote a book about an army vet who’s also a vampire. Or that Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf was originally drafted as a comic (thanks, Jack Kirby). Who doesn’t want all of this? Why are none of us sitting on the loo right now reading about Steinbeck’s werewolves ravaging some silly town in the U.S.? To rob us of such delights is to twist the dagger of human cruelty ever deeper, is what it is.
This never-published Steinbeck novel titled Murder at Full Moon has only one manuscript in existence, and scholars who’ve read it say it’s a glorious little potboiler that should be gifted to the world, especially since it reflects many of Steinbeck’s famous central themes. The plot of this forgotten Californian noir focuses around a newbie reporter in the made-up town of Cone City, home to a gloomy marsh. The young reporter joins a local hunting club and, on one moonlit night, a member’s dog is killed. A string of murders follow with people always getting offed under a full moon, and everyone starts to suspect that the killer might be a superhuman werewolf-type marsh monster because hell yeah this story slaps.
Oh, and a local investigator uses his knowledge gained from obsessively reading bad murder mysteries to try and solve the case, giving it a totally ironic feel and also predicting the rise of Californian noir detective fiction. So why don’t we have this significant piece of fiction on our shelves? Well, even though Steinbeck tried to get it published initially, he wrote this magnificently macabre novel under a pseudonym of one Peter Pym, as it was early in his career and he was looking to make some quick cash without being branded as a pulp fiction writer. Now, Steinbeck’s estate is arguing that the author didn’t want the story to see the light of day, hence the Peter Pym part. That seems like a flimsy argument, especially given the fact that Steinbeck destroyed the work he didn’t want anyone else to see, ever. Why would he go through the trouble of eliminating what he thought was his lesser work, just to leave this specific novel intact?
Steinbeck might not have thought much of his marshy novel, but that doesn’t mean the world feels the same. Also, that’s really just a writer-thing. We are notorious for hating on our own work. Stephen King threw Carrie in the literal trash before his wife dug it out and told him he was onto something. Kafka wanted to burn everything he’d ever written. It really comes with the territory. That is why it’s Cracked’s official stance that the Steinbeck estate do the right thing and bless the world with this lost work of werewolf art. (Seriously, Steinbeck even did an illustration for the book. It could look like a doodle made by a toddler and we’ll still think it’s glorious.)
Besides, given his record, it couldn’t possibly be the most controversial piece of Steinbeck literature ever published. Not by a long shot.
Zanandi is trying to finish a book without tearing it into a million pieces and flushing it down the toilet. So dramatic. Give her some motivation on Twitter.
Top Image: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay