Harper Lee Isn't Alone — 7 Other Authors Who Made Us Wait Years and Years
Did you hear that? That was the sound of a collective whoop heard round the world, as we were treated to the stunning news this week that Harper Lee will release a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird in 2015, nearly 55 years after publishing the original. Titled, according to publisher Harper Collins, Go Set a Watchman, the book was written shortly after Mockingbird, but, in what we may now consider the most confusing advice in publishing history, Lee was told to set the manuscript aside and forget about it.
This is big news. Huge. Think of how many friends you have who named their dog (and then their baby), Scout or Harper. And I am already calling a return of Atticus to the top 100 baby boy name lists for 2015/2016. (Downton Abbey may take a bit of credit for this one as well. Atticus Aldridge, swoon.)
But more than just adding to the boutique quality of old-fashioned names, or offering some closure for our favorite daddy/daughter duo, the publication of a follow-up to TKAM some 55 years later shows us that it’s never too late for an amazing author. When the work is good, when the words are sound and the ideas are timeless, we’ll wait. Harper Lee may have just set the record for longest non-posthumous time between book sequels, but as these other seven amazing books have proved, the wait is usually worth it.
1. Tales from Watership Down — 24 years after Watership Down
Love it or hate it, Watership Down has achieved a place of honor in the children's literature canon since its release in 1972. Richard Adams wrote nearly 20 other books and waited a quarter of a century before the bunnies beckoned and he released a new series of linked stories featuring El-ahrairah and the rest of the gang.
2. The Widows of Eastwick — 24 years after The Witches of Eastwick
If The Witches of Eastwick feels like a bit of a departure for a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author, that's because it is. Written partly to appease Updike's female audience, Updike nevertheless must have harboured a great fondness for his witches, as he revisited them more than two decades later to wrap their story up before he died less than a year later in 2009.
3. Closing Time — 33 years after Catch 22
There is a lot of speculation as to why Joseph Heller bothered to write a Catch-22 follow-up 33 years after the original — after all, he had achieved literary, commercial, and critical success. Would anything else even come close after that? Well, not really, as Closing Time was relegated to being talked about only as a solid novel that would never be as good as the original.
4. In the Unlikely Event — 16 years after Summer Sisters
In the Unlikely Event isn't exactly a sequel to the beloved Blume classic, Summer Sisters, but it is a follow-up of sorts: Dedicated fans have waited a long 16 years for Blume to pen another book for adults. However, this hasn't exactly been a dry spell for the queen of adolescent fiction — young readers have had four new books from Blume in the interim.
5. Bark: Stories — 15 years after Birds of America
When Birds of America appeared in 1998, it made a splash on the literary scene, and quickly moved up the best-sellers lists — something that can be quite a feat for a short-story collection. In the 15 years between collections, Moore did release a novel to a bit of quiet fan-fare, but why the wait for a new round of stories? "I'm slow," Moore told The New York Times.
6. The Coal War — 59 years after King Coal
The 59-year gap between Upton Sinclair's first candid look at the condition of America's coal mining industry at the turn of the 20th century and it's follow-up met a fate similar to Harper Lee's — that is, a publisher in 1917 deemed it too uninteresting to publish. Eventually, somebody disagreed with that assessment and allowed the book to be published in 1976, eight years after Sinclair's death at age 90.
7. Doctor Sleep — 36 years after The Shining
For such a prolific author, it sure took Stephen King a long time to circle back to one of the creepiest child protagonists ever written. In Doctor Sleep, Danny is now an adult trying to work through his Overlook Hotel-induced PTSD. No surprise that this book hit the best-seller lists faster than you can say, redrum.