A Brief Survey of Famous Authors’ Unpublished Books

Earlier this week, Avi Steinberg wrote a profile on Maurice Sendak’s final publication — the posthumous My Brother’s Book, which was released last month. In his essay for The New Yorker, Steinberg also tells the story of Sendak’s first unpublished book that was written when Sendak was seven. They Were Inseparable was a collaboration with the author’s 12-year-old brother, dedicated to their 16-year-old sister whom they idolized dearly. The early Sendak tale may never see a standalone release, which led us to wonder about the numerous manuscripts by famous authors floating somewhere in the ether. After the jump, we briefly examine 10 unpublished works by well-known writers. What others belong on the list?


Hunter S. Thompson’s Prince Jellyfish

The formal publication of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s first novel may not be far off, especially if Hollywood has already caught on to his second previously unpublished work, The Rum Diary. After all, they can’t let Johnny Depp become too old to play the eccentric writer.

In a chapter titled “Character is Destiny” in Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream, Thompson revealed that he wrote the unpublished novel in 1959, using an assumed name while living in an “illegal sub-basement at 57 Perry Street.” A letter printed in the same book, to editor Angus Cameron, indicates Thompson “tried like hell to finish it,” but a relationship, an arrest, and a dead-end writing assignment “somewhat hindered the progress of the book.”

Excerpts from Prince Jellyfish also appear in Songs of the Doomed, where we learn that the autobiographical story’s protagonist, named Welburn Kemp, heads from Louisville to the big city “struggling against the dunces to make his way.” Kemp’s name comes from two of Thompson’s high school classmates (one died tragically in a car crash, the other suffered brain damage from a wreck), but the character is every bit Thompson. Other people from the author’s past make appearances. Shortly after finishing a first draft, Thompson did head to New York City in search of bigger and better things.