Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Steinbeck wrote a violent werewolf mystery novel and no one will let us read it

Photo credits: Left: John Steinbeck (Hulton Archive/Getty Images), Right: Lon Chaney Jr. (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
Photo credits: Left: John Steinbeck (Hulton Archive/Getty Images), Right: Lon Chaney Jr. (Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)

It’s said that, somewhere inside every author, there exists the seed of greatness. Millions have pounded away at typewriters and keyboards for years, seeking to unlock the genius within, often to fruitless result. But we all know we have it in us, somewhere: The ability to craft the great American novel where a werewolf murders a shit-ton of people.

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In this, as in so many things, we are much like John Steinbeck, who, in his early days, apparently wrote, and attempted to have published under a pseudonym, Murder At Full Moon. Which is, yes, a book in which a small town is imperiled by a werewolf, and a bunch of characters (including a “cub reporter,” a mysterious man who runs a local gun club,” and an amateur sleuth apparently inspired by the same pulp fiction as Steinbeck) all try to figure out why people keep dying on the full moon. (Answer: Werewolf.) It is, we hazard a guess, probably the finest werewolf murder novel ever written by a Nobel Prize winner in Literature, with no disrespect meant to Luigi Pirandello’s seminal Six Characters In Search Of A Silver Bullet To Kill This Goddamned Werewolf.

Of course, we can only hazard a guess, because Murder At Full Moon has never been published, and instead exists, in full manuscript form, only in an archive in Austin, Texas. But there are now calls being made to have the book published, most notably by Stanford academic Gavin Jones. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Jones called Murder At Full Moon an example of “Steinbeck the naturalist, interested in human nature.” (Also: Werewolf nature.) “It actually,” Jones adds, “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.”

But while we would love to finally dip into this slightly more lurid spin on My Travels With Charley, Steinbeck’s literary agents won’t budge, on the grounds that he almost certainly would not have wanted them to—since he wrote Full Moon under a pseudonym, and never tried to get it published again after he became world famous. Which is all well and good, but we would like to offer up the following counterpoint to this well-reasoned call for decorum: C’mon. Release the John Steinbeck werewolf book! The burgeoning field of werewolf literature needs this.