Where are the new J.D. Salinger books?

Kevin Spacey (far left) and Nicholas Hoult star in Rebel In The Rye, a new film about J.D. Salinger released in theatres last month.
Kevin Spacey (left) and Nicholas Hoult star in Rebel In The Rye, a new film about J.D. Salinger released in theatres last month.PHOTO: IFC FILMS

NEW YORK • In November 1974, the famously reclusive writer J.D. Salinger briefly stepped out from his secluded life in a small New Hampshire town to denounce the unauthorised release of his early works.

In that interview, one of his last before his death in 2010, he confirmed he was still writing - long hours and every day, he said.

Nothing new by Salinger has been published since 1965 and no one close to him has suggested after his death that anything ever will be. But in 2013, a documentary about the author and a related book offered a bold assertion: He had not only continued writing, but also left detailed notes to his trust about releasing the material between 2015 and 2020.

The claim sent a ripple through the publishing world.

Rebel In The Rye, a new film about Salinger released in theatres last month, makes clear that he continued to write long after his last work was published. But it is almost 2018 and no books have been released. So, where are they?

"What came of those?" Matthew Salinger, the author's son, said in a brief telephone interview this month.

When the author's widow, Colleen O'Neill, answered the telephone at her home in New Hampshire this month, she said, "I'm sorry. I can't take this phone call", and hung up.

Matthew Salinger, who controls the J.D. Salinger Literary Trust along with O'Neill, shares his father's disdain for the public spotlight. Did his father leave anything to be published?

"You are not going to get an answer from me," Salinger said. Before hanging up, he added: "I would consider the source."

The source was Salinger, the 2013 documentary and book by the same name, by David Shields and Shane Salerno, who spent nine years researching and producing them.

In the last pages of the book, they cite two "independent and separate" anonymous people who assert that J.D. Salinger left instructions "authorising a specific timetable" for the release of five additional works.

One new book, The Family Glass, is said to include five new stories about the Glass family, who also appeared in the 1961 book, Franny And Zooey and other stories.

There would also be a novel set during World War II and based on his first marriage; a novella about his time in the war; and a retooled version of the short story The Last And Best Of The Peter Pans that would include new stories about the Caulfields, the fictional family in The Catcher In The Rye, his signature 1951 book that remains required reading for high-school students every year.

Salerno, who directed the documentary, said in a recent interview that he stood by the claims. He said the veracity of the assertions could be questioned only if nothing was published by Jan 1, 2021.

"How did I ever manage to get any of this stuff without Matthew Salinger?" Salerno wrote in an e-mail message.

"It's very simple. Despite his fervent hope to be the only source about his father, Matthew Salinger is ultimately just one source.

"It's critical to point out the following: Matthew Salinger has never disputed a single fact contained in either the book or film."

But Salinger's son declined to say whether his fans should believe new books are coming. Maybe one day, he will reveal if any exist, Matthew Salinger said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Where are the new J.D. Salinger books?'. Print Edition | Subscribe