Before John Steinbeck became a world-famous author and won the Nobel Prize for literature, he was just another struggling novelist experimenting with genres and piling up rejection slips.

Steinbeck ripped up two of his early novels but a third — a full-length werewolf mystery called “Murder at Full Moon” — has been brought to light by a British professor at Stanford University who wants the Steinbeck estate to publish it, the Guardian reported Saturday.

The 233-page manuscript, which Steinbeck wrote under the pen name Peter Pym, has been stuck in the archives of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin after Steinbeck failed to get it published in 1930.

“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.

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

Steinbeck, the author of “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Of Mice and Men” and “East of Eden,” crafted something very different with “Murder at Full Moon,” Jones told the Guardian.

Author John Steinbeck, at his home in Sag Harbor, Long Island.
John Steinbeck wrote the manuscript under the pen name Peter Pym.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

The story is set in a fictional California seaside town where a series of murders has occurred under a full moon. Local investigators fear a supernatural monster — like a werewolf — is hiding in the nearby marshes.

Far less realistic than his later, celebrated novels, and quite lurid, “Murder at Full Moon” may have been too gory for publishers to take a chance on, Jones said.

But despite Jones’ enthusiasm for the book, Steinbeck’s literary agents, McIntosh & Otis, say they won’t seek to publish it.

“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.”

Jones disagrees.

“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.”



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