John Steinbeck’s Forgotten, Unpublished Werewolf Novel

‘Murder at Full Moon’ was John Steinbeck’s werewolf mystery story, rejected for publication in 1930. Now, his estate is being urged to publish the unseen novel.

Book Culture Classics Fiction Thriller & Mystery

Although John Steinbeck is best known for literary classics including The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, he wrote three other novels years before the ones that would forever remain synonymous with his name. Steinbeck destroyed two of those works before his death. Now, the John Steinbeck estate is being urged to publish the third novel.



According to The Guardian, Murder at Full Moon is a “full-length mystery werewolf story [which] has survived unseen in an archive ever since being rejected for publication in 1930.” The story is set in a fictional California town, where the residents become frightened after numerous murders occur during a full moon. The characters suspect a supernatural being might be to blame. Steinbeck’s typescript also contains two illustrations created by Steinbeck himself. They show a floorplan of the building where the murders occurred, as well as the bodies of the murdered.

As mentioned in The Guardian, Professor Gavin Jones from Stanford University commented that Murder at Full Moon “actually relates to [Steinbeck’s] 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.” Jones also indicated that readers would likely enjoy the werewolf novel more than Steinbeck’s other novels since Murder at Full Moon portrays “Steinbeck the naturalist, interested in human nature” and also “predicts Californian noir detective fiction.”




However, the chance that we’ll ever read this enticing mystery is highly unlikely. According to The Guardian, McIntosh & Otis, Steinbeck’s literary agents, reported to the Observer that the estate will not publish the novel since Steinbeck wrote the novel under a pseudonym (Peter Pym) and decided not to publish it during his lifetime. The agents stated, “we do not further exploit the works beyond what had been the author and estate’s wishes.”

Jones counterargued with the agents, stating that Steinbeck actually attempted to publish the novel early on and did not destroy the manuscript, even though he destroyed others. Also, many authors wrote under pseudonyms and had their works published posthumously.

The typescript for Murder at Full Moon is 233 pages long and is currently located within the Ransom Center archives at the University of Texas at Austin.