Columns > Published on September 17th, 2013

12 Unpublished Novels We Wish We Could Read

Starting in 2015, fans of J.D. Salinger will be treated to a treasure trove of previously unreleased work, including new stories about the Glass family and a sequel to The Catcher in the Rye. In the wake of exploding heads and spontaneous bowel evacuations prompted by that announcement, I got to thinkin': What other famous authors have work that's never seen the light of publication? Work their fans would kill to get their ink-stained mitts on, regardless of quality? That thinkin' got me to researchin', and it turns out numerous Holy Grails exist. Unfinished manuscripts and unrealized ideas taken to the grave; completed work deemed unfit for publication, whether by the author or publishing at large; material lost to time or destroyed in a fit of rage/self-pity/doubt. Mayhaps one day they will surface, emerging from the depths like Salinger's work did. It's even possible they could be works of genius (although another twelve volume sleeping pill a la Tolkien's History of Middle Earth is far more likely). But until that day arrives, they remain part of the 12 Unpublished Novels We Wish We Could Read.

'Prince Jellyfish' by Hunter S. Thompson

What we know: This was the Gonzo God's first attempt at The Great American Novel, written during his early 20s when he was still naive and optimistic. Or as naive and optimistic someone who had been kicked out of high school and served time for armed robbery could be. The Guardian described the book as "an autobiographical novel about a boy from Louisville, going to the big city and struggling against the dunces to make his way." [1] Sounds like quintessential Thompson. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to touch it. He abandoned it and moved to Puerto Rico to work on his second novel (which wouldn't be published until 1998), The Rum Diary.

Why we want to read it: It's a first novel written by a twenty-something, but it's a first novel written by a twenty-something Hunter S. Thompson. And The Rum Diary was pretty good.


'The Owl In Daylight' by Philip K. Dick

What we know: Dick had been working on this novel at the time of his death. He had already been paid a handsome advance, so of course the publisher wanted someone to finish the thing. Dick's estate reached out to numerous writers, but since the author left no outline, no one could figure out what the hell the novel was supposed to be about. There are numerous theories, based on different interviews with the author, but apparently it had something to do with a B-movie composer whose mind is taken over by a race of aliens that live in a world without sound. Their influence turns the man into an avant-garde sensation, but it also destroys his brain. The aliens offer to remove the chip, but he's like, Fuck that, I'd rather die for my art, and chooses to have his being transplanted into an alien so his consciousness can continue to create.

An alternate summary claims the book's about a scientist who is trapped in a theme park of his own creation by artificial intelligence who is forced to travel through multiple realities, a la Dante's Divine Comedy. [2]

Why we want to read it: It sounds bat-shit bonkers, that's why.


The 'Rant' Sequels by Chuck Palahniuk

What we know: Back when he was doing press for Haunted, Chuck mentioned how said book was the third in a thematic horror trilogy, and that his next book, Rant, would be the first in a sci-fi trilogy. Five novels, one remix, and no sequels later, the fans are still clamoring for it. We don't even know if it's supposed to be an actual trilogy or just another thematic one. But what we do know is that the book is already written, and we wants it, precious. From Chuck's recent Reddit AMA:

Argh! The Rant question comes back! I've written the second book, but I'm such a compulsive nut-job that I'm still looking for a non-fiction form to use as a structure. I know, I know, I'm stuck on structural gimicks (sic), but experiments like that are important to me.

Why we want to read it: Rant is a puzzle box of time travel and liminality, and was Chuck's best book since Choke, if not Survivor. He has yet to top it.


'The Poet' by Charles Bukowski

What we know: Bukowski published his first novel, Post Office, in 1971. It was followed by Factotum in 1975. But wait, according to the book Mug Shots: Who's Who in the New Earth (1972), he was working on a novel called The Poet at the time, which he described as, "fairly filthy, very lively, and just a little bit literary." On January 12, 1975, the Northwest Arkansas Times reported he was still "leisurely" working on said novel.  

So what happened? Is Factotum, in fact, The Poet? Was the novel abandoned? Cannibalized for other works? Lost forever? We may never know.

Why we want to read it: Because we love us some narcissistic, alcoholic navel gazing, and this guy was the master.

"Godspeed" by Will Christopher Baer

What we know: It's been years since Baer disappeared into the ether and took his followup to the Phineas Poe trilogy with him. According to the synopsis still on Amazon, Godspeed is "equal parts dark fantasy and sinister noir, a Paradise Lost for a new generation." Tantalizing bits still exist on the internet, but who knows what form it has taken since. All we know is Baer is a perfectionist, and the release date kept getting pushed, and then the publisher went under and Baer went away. We've been waiting for him to resurface ever since.

Why we want to read it: Why does the sun rise in the East and set in the West? Why does a dog chase its tail? Why can't Phineas leave Jude? Now you're beginning to understand.


'The House on Value Street' by Stephen King

What we know: I know Stephen King is so prolific it seems like he publishes every little thing he farts out, but he actually has an abundance of unfinished/unpublished material (much of it housed in the Special Collections Department of the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine). Perhaps most famous is The House on Value Street, King's "roman à clef about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, her brainwashing (or her sociopolitical awakening, depending on your point of view...), her participation in the bank robbery, the shootout at the SLA hideout in Los Angeles...the fugitives run across the country, the whole ball of wax." [3]

Why we want to read it: King did interesting things with American History in his recent novel, 11/22/63, and he does some of his best work when he steps outside of the horror genre, so his take on Patty Hearst could have been great. Not only that, it was during the writing of that novel that he was inspired to write The Stand.  


'The Only Criminal' by Tim Lucas

What we know: Tim Lucas might be best known for his film criticism. He is the editor/creator of Video Watchdog, as well as the author of books on the works of Mario Bava and David Cronenberg's Videodrome. But he is also the author of two pretty great novels: Throat Sprockets and The Book of Renfield.

He has an unpublished third novel, a "graphic novel idea written in classic novel form"[4] called The Only Criminal. It started as a short story in 1978 and has since blossomed into a novel and been rewritten numerous times. From the few hints the author has dropped, it is a "dark fantasy"[4] about "a global phenomenon tied to found artifacts of, shall we say, infernal provenance."[5] His last update came from the Video Watchblog in June of 2007.  As of that point he had finally finished the novel to his liking and was preparing to send it out. Nothing has been heard since.

UPDATE: Tim contacted me after reading this article to let me know that The Only Criminal should be coming out in eBook form sometime next year. Huzzah!

Why we want to read it: Throat Sprockets, a novel about a man who becomes obsessed with an erotic film about throats, is such a beautifully bizarre piece of literature. I would read anything Lucas writes based on that book alone.


'Twilight of the Superheroes' by Alan Moore

What we know: Alright, not technically a novel, but this is coming from the man who wrote comics like they were novels—thick and meaty. Moore pitched this epic crossover to DC in 1987, which involved John Constantine going back in time to have drinks with himself in an attempt to prevent a future ruled by warring superhero dynasties. Those dynasties included the House of Steel, ruled by "it" power-couple Superman and Wonder Woman; the House of Thunder, consisting of the Marvel family; a superpowerless group of rebels led by Batman; and an alien contingent formed by the Green Lantern Corps.[5]

Why we want to read it: Sounds kind of like a spandex version of Game of Thrones, minus all the sex and violence. Oh, wait. This is Alan Moore we're talking about, so it would have been chock full of sex and violence. Damn, this would have been good.


'Mambo Mephiste' by Seth Morgan

What we know: This one comes straight from the wishlist of Craig Clevenger. Seth Morgan wrote his first novel, the blistering Homeboy, during a brief layover between heroin habits. But despite a decent critical reception and a promising literary future, Seth jumped right back up on that horse. Maybe it was that five-figure advance on the paperback, burning a hole in his pocket. Shortly after the book's release, Morgan died in a drunken bike wreck.

"His second novel, Mambo Mephiste, was by his own account to be the definitive Mardi Gras novel."[7] But only a few chapters and a synopsis exist, rescued from his apartment before it was tossed by the neighborhood junkies. Both chapters and the synopsis can be found in issue #16 of Conjunctions.

Why we want to read it: Craig's ringing endorsement of Morgan. Nuff said.

"Saint Heretic" "Mother Howl" by Craig Clevenger

What we know: Speaking of Clevenger, he's another guy who's been working on his next novel for what seems like forever. [EDIT: And guess what? He just announced he finished it AS I WAS WRITING THIS.] Initially titled Saint Heretic, at least back in 2005, this shapeshifter of a narrative probably hasn't even assumed its final form the finished novel is now called Mother Howl. It spawned from a short story called "The Fade," and according to Craig, is not nearly as dark as his previous work.[8] It's been a long time coming, but at least we know he's still plugging away it's done. Hopefully we'll get to read it soon.

Why we want to read it: We've never been shy about our love for the Craigmeister here at LitReactor. The man's a damn fine writer


'The Long Goodbye' by Harper Lee

What we know: Lee was halfway through the followup to her Pulitzer Prize winning To Kill A Mockingbird when she just... stopped. Was it the pressure? The alcohol? Capote? No one knows. We don't even know what the book was supposed to be about. All we know is she wanted to be the "Jane Austen of Southern Alabama,"[9] and write "a series of novels chronicling small-town life."[10] She began another project in the 80s, a true crime piece about "a renegade Alabama preacher whose wives and close relatives had a nasty habit of ending up dead,"[9] but abandoned that as well. She refuses to speak to anyone about either.

Why we want to read it: Because she is the author of Pulitzer Prize winning, 30 million copy selling To Kill A Mockingbird, that's why.


'The Replay Sequel' by Ken Grimwood

What we know: Ken was in the middle of writing the sequel to his popular Groundhog Day precursor when he died of a heart attack (which, coincidentally, is what killed the first novel's protagonist, over and over and over again) in 2003. Possibly because John Constantine came back from the future and told him that Ben Affleck was circling the lead in a proposed film adaptation, like a vulture. Sadly, that is all we know about the novel.

Why we want to read it: To find out the mysteries behind the Replays. Granted, Grimwood wasn't necessarily going to tell us, but still...


Dishonorable Mentions and Also-rans

Now before you get all petulant and pester me with your Why didn't you includes... here are a bunch I didn't include. Either because they've already been published in some undercooked form, or are generally considered unpublishable by all involved.

  • The God Thing by Gene Roddenberry: The "lost" Star Trek novel, based on a screenplay Roddenberry wrote pre-Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Numerous writers have attempted to finish the project, some as recent as 1994, but no dice.
  • If God Were Alive Today by Kurt Vonnegut: A first draft exists, published as a novella in We Are What We Pretend To Be, but don't be fooled. Vonnegut had given up on this novel shortly before his death, and never meant for it to be published. By all accounts, what exists is not very good.
  • Fountain City by Michael Chabon: An abandoned 1500 page opus that inspired Chabon to write Wonder Boys. He published an annotated version of the first four chapters in McSweeney's.
  • If You Lived Here, You’d be Home Already by Chuck Palahniuk: Chuck's first attempt at a novel, which by his own admission was a pretty terrible attempt at emulating Stephen King. The 700 pager was rejected by every agent in town. Another one for the better left unread pile.
  • Dark America by Junot Diaz: A sci-fi yarn about mutants the author deemed "hopelessly stupid and convoluted.”[11]
  • Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer: A heartbroken Meyer abandoned this Twilight spin-off after the first twelve chapters leaked to the internet.
  • Inland Souls by Jennifer Egan: A 600 page monster Egan scrapped, saving only the original concept, which became Invisible Circus.
  • The Dark Tower by C.S. Lewis: A novella featuring Dr. Ransom from Lewis's acclaimed Space Trilogy that takes place after the events of Out of the Silent Planet. It has been published in its unfinished form, but many believe it to be a forgery.

Still have some Why didn't you includes to pelt me with? That's what the comments are for. Which of these unpublished works would you give your first born child to read?

About the author

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor of LitReactor. He is the author of The Paradox Twins (CLASH Books), the story collection Whispers in the Ear of A Dreaming Ape, and the parody Kanye West—Reanimator. His short fiction has been published by Vice, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Thuglit, Severed Press, Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Broken River Books, and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @jaceycockrobin. More info at and

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