Peter Pym's "Murder at Full Moon," a werewolf novel
June 7, 2021 3:30 PM   Subscribe

Over the course of nine days in 1930, using the pen name Peter Pym, John Steinbeck wrote a pulp detective novel featuring werewolves.

"Murder at Full Moon" will remain unpublished, per McIntosh & Otis, the Steinbeck estate's literary agents: “As Steinbeck wrote Murder at Full Moon under a pseudonym and did not choose to publish the work during his lifetime, we uphold what Steinbeck had wanted,” they said. “As the estate’s agents, we do not further exploit the works beyond what had been the author and estate’s wishes.”

Professor Gavin Jones of Stanford, author of the forthcoming book, "Reclaiming John Steinbeck: Writing for the Future of Humanity," counters: “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.” (Via John Steinbeck’s estate urged to let the world read his shunned werewolf novel, The Guardian, May 22, 2021; Rejected and hidden away since 1930, an early murder mystery by the Nobel-winning author is ‘an incredible find’.)

Yes, Steinbeck Wrote a Werewolf Novel. Don’t Expect to Read It. (NY Times, May 27, 2021) (archived link)

A description of the work at the Guardian: 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.

The sole copy of "Murder at Full Moon," a 233-page typescript (with illustrations!), languishes in the John Steinbeck Collection at UT Austin's Harry Ransom Center.

John Steinbeck previously on MetaFilter.
posted by Iris Gambol (38 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can we post in MeFi Jobs for a rare book thief?
posted by goatdog at 3:43 PM on June 7 [28 favorites]


he did not destroy this manuscript as he did several others.

So now I can imagine that he wrote the "X Files time travel to Cannery Row" mashup I've always wanted. Mack and Mulder believe, Doc is skeptical, but Dora strikes up a surprising friendship with Scully and they run off together to San Francisco.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:51 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


We are still endlessly awaiting the great American werewolf novel.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:06 PM on June 7 [19 favorites]


It's times like these I console myself by reading the actually-published John Steinbeck story about a living piece of chewing up that keeps crawling back into a child's mouth in spite of the child's parents' increasingly elaborate attempts at disposing of it
posted by Earthtopus at 4:10 PM on June 7


If it's at the Harry Ransom Center and in a collection listed as "open for research" you can in fact visit the Center at the University of Texas here in Austin and read it. Well, not right now because they're still closed to researchers due to COVID-19. But in general.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 4:13 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


The intertwined stories of two rival werewolf packs in California’s Salinas Valley, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. I don’t think they need to be werewolves, John. ( Alexandra Petri)
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:13 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


I don't have much interest in werewolf books, but much interest in books that include murder room floorpans with clues helpfully marked. Do American amateur detectives gather their suspects on the front porch instead of the drawing room? I'm going to go ahead and guess that the cub reporter is faking the werewolf killings to boost his career, but on the last page there is a mysterious howl in the distance, deeper and richer than a coyote, could it be...
posted by betweenthebars at 4:16 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Wolf cub reporter I hope.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:42 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


I understand and respect Steinbeck's wishes, and I'm glad his estate has decided to do the same.

...but I would read the hell out of that book
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 5:06 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


Don’t be silly, there’s no such thing as werewoooooooooooooooolves.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:40 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Laughing, and reposting CheeseDigestsAll's Petri comment as an archived link.
Opinion: John Steinbeck’s editor removes all the werewolves from his work
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:53 PM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Werewolf is the only kind of varmint who sets his own trap and baits it by day, in hopes he will step on it in the moonlight.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:54 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


It's sad, isn't it? Vampires can loathe themselves and still shut the drapes.
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:18 PM on June 7


John Steinbeck story about a living piece of chewing up

Chewing gum.

The Affair at 7 Rue de M—
posted by zamboni at 6:43 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of the Stephen King novella Ur, in which an English professor receives a magic Kindle by mistake and can read the books that famous writers in other timelines would have written if they'd lived longer or simply decided to work in different genres.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:20 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


“Tell me about the werewolves, George.”
posted by njohnson23 at 7:46 PM on June 7 [15 favorites]


Beast of Eden
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 7:51 PM on June 7 [23 favorites]


Maybe if I had known this I would have actually read his work when it was assigned to me, instead of it being the only reading homework that I, the huge book nerd, skipped over in school. It was probably much better than I remember and just didn't have enough of what I wanted at the time, which was swordfights. I should check it out again.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:12 PM on June 7


I hate to break it to you folks, but there was no Charley; there was only ever Steinbeck himself.

And there are a whole lot of early 60s missing persons cases in which bodies never turned up, and a bunch of savage animal attacks where a wolf's howl hadn't been heard for two generations, all laid out in one big loop encircling most of the country and all seeming to start and then end in New York.

Weird.
posted by jamjam at 9:08 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


It's even less well known that Steinbeck produced a sequel, one which contemplated the travails of a neighbourhood of werewolves. Sadly, his editors did not respond well to Lycannery Row.
posted by ZaphodB at 9:50 PM on June 7 [20 favorites]


Just because we’re talking about Steinbeck and because I saw it again recently, I thought I’d share a link to SCTV’s Grapes of Mud.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:07 PM on June 7


Beast of Eden

The Apes of Wrath?
posted by Paul Slade at 12:37 AM on June 8


It was probably much better than I remember

Unless you just don't like that sort of American lit at all (certainly a possibility in high school), the first thing I can think of that might put you off Steinbeck would probably be his (at its worst) heavy-handed sentimentality.
posted by thelonius at 2:07 AM on June 8


If it's at the Harry Ransom Center and in a collection listed as "open for research" you can in fact visit the Center at the University of Texas here in Austin and read it. Well, not right now because they're still closed to researchers due to COVID-19. But in general.

Metafilter Jobs

Seeking professional transcriber with an eidetic memory. Must be capable of memorizing up to 233 pages of text and illustrations and be efficient, accurate and very discreet. Cannot offer financial compensation at this time, however, you will receive the boundless gratitude of hundreds (potentially thousands) of internet strangers and maybe a t-shirt, if we haven't run out.
posted by jeremias at 3:37 AM on June 8 [9 favorites]


Not complaining about this post, but I've been seeing these "OMG John Steinbeck wrote a werewolf novel—and we'll NEVER read it!" stories at Reddit and other places for a while now. This smacks of a viral promotion by a future publisher to me. I expect to read it within a year.
posted by SoberHighland at 4:34 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


I hate to break it to you folks, but there was no Charley; there was only ever Steinbeck himself.

Werepoodles are definitely a thing!
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:07 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


Also direpoodles, but that’s a different book.
posted by Celsius1414 at 6:08 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


> “As Steinbeck wrote Murder at Full Moon under a pseudonym and did not choose to publish the work during his lifetime, we uphold what Steinbeck had wanted,” they said. “As the estate’s agents, we do not further exploit the works beyond what had been the author and estate’s wishes.”

[sotto voce] "...because we can't make money from it."
posted by at by at 6:30 AM on June 8 [1 favorite]


I understand and respect Steinbeck's wishes, and I'm glad his estate has decided to do the same.

Seconded. I suspect we're in the minority though.
posted by Paul Slade at 7:52 AM on June 8


Came for the Steinbeck werewolf puns, was not disappointed.
posted by star gentle uterus at 11:59 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Unless you just don't like that sort of American lit at all (certainly a possibility in high school), the first thing I can think of that might put you off Steinbeck would probably be his (at its worst) heavy-handed sentimentality.

I think, to be serious for a moment, the thing that puts most high school kids off Steinbeck is that it's taught as a historical curiousity absent class analysis, rather than as politically relevant today. "There was a Depression and things were bad but they are better now" is not compelling. "Hey, look at the exploitation of labor and the poor, which continues to the present day in various forms" would have definitely gotten my attention.
posted by corb at 12:22 PM on June 8 [6 favorites]


Seeking professional transcriber with an eidetic memory. Must be capable of memorizing up to 233 pages of text and illustrations and be efficient, accurate and very discreet.

You'd just need to be unethical! Cameras are allowed in the reading rooms at the HRC, or at least they were last time I visited.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 12:58 PM on June 8


Came for the Steinbeck werewolf puns, was not disappointed.

The Moon Is Up
The Short Reign of Puppy IV
Once There Was a Were

posted by dannyboybell at 1:48 PM on June 8


Before I encountered this story, I encountered the Petri piece linked above. Upon reading it, I was all "okay. Not sure where this is coming from, but it's amusing." I feel like there should be a word for "the feeling of encountering a referential work without awareness of the reference"
posted by DebetEsse at 2:00 PM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I'm tired, over-worked, and I want to read this book.
posted by acrasis at 3:03 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


One would think that, reasonably, posthumous wishes would have a term of limitation. Sure, you can decide that you don't want your forays into Bigfoot erotica to be published after your death, but once those who knew you in real life have passed on, that should bear less weight than historical posterity (especially if you were at least a somewhat notable figure).
posted by acb at 3:35 PM on June 8


So what you're saying is if he didn't want it published, he should have destroyed it instead of just asking.
posted by tigrrrlily at 4:22 PM on June 8


> "It's even less well known that Steinbeck produced a sequel... Sadly, his editors did not respond well to Lycannery Row."

Meat Thirstday is an underrated entry in that series.
posted by kyrademon at 3:04 AM on June 9


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