NEW YORK — The authors of a new J.D. Salinger biography are claiming they have cracked one of publishing’s greatest mysteries: What “The Catcher in the Rye” novelist was working on during the last half century of his life.
Starting between 2015 and 2020, a series of posthumous Salinger releases are planned, according to “Salinger,” co-written by David Shields and Shane Salerno and scheduled to be published Sept. 3. The Associated Press obtained an early copy. Salerno’s documentary on the author opens Sept. 6. In January, it will air on PBS as an installment of “American Masters.”
Providing by far the most detailed report of previously unreleased material, the book’s authors cite “two independent and separate sources” who they say have “documented and verified” the information.
One of the Salinger books would center on “Catcher” protagonist Holden Caulfield and his family, including a revised version of an early, unpublished story “The Last and Best of the Peter Pans.” Other volumes would draw on Salinger’s World War II years and his immersion in Eastern religion.
A publication called “The Family Glass” would feature additional stories about the Glass family of “Franny and Zooey” and other Salinger works.
“Salinger” does not identify a prospective publisher. Spokesman Terry Adams of Little, Brown and Company, which released “Catcher” and Salinger’s three other books, declined to comment Sunday. Salinger’s son, Matt Salinger, who helps run the author’s literary estate, was not immediately available for comment.
If the books do appear, they may well not be through Little, Brown. In the mid-1990s, Salinger agreed to allow a small Virginia-based press, Orchises, to issue his novella “Hapworth 16, 1924,” which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. But after news leaked of the planned publication, Salinger changed his mind and “Hapworth” was canceled.
No Salinger book came out after the early 1960s, as the author increasingly withdrew from public life.
Over the past 50 years, there has been endless and conflicting speculation over what Salinger had been doing during his self-imposed retirement. That Salinger continued to write is well documented. Friends, neighbors and family members all reported that Salinger was writing in his final years and the author himself told The New York Times in 1974 that he wrote daily, though only for himself.
“There is a marvelous peace in not publishing,” he said at the time.
But there is no consensus on what he was writing and no physical evidence of what Salinger had reportedly stashed in a safe in his home in Cornish, N.H. The Salinger estate, run partly by Matt Salinger and Salinger’s widow, Colleen O’Neill, has remained silent on the subject since the author’s death in January 2010. The two did not cooperate with Salerno and Shields.
Their 700-page Salinger biography has new information well beyond any possible posthumous fiction. Nine years in the making and thoroughly documented, “Salinger” features many rare photographs and letters; unprecedented detail about the author’s World War II years and brief first marriage.