"Nine years before John Steinbeck published his Pulitzer Prize-winning historical masterpiece, ‘The Grapes of Wrath,’ he was working on a lighthearted detective novel featuring a werewolf.

The manuscript, ‘Murder at Full Moon,’ was completed in 1930 but was never published. A single copy has been sitting, mostly forgotten, in an archive in Texas since 1969. It includes drawings by Steinbeck himself."

The New York Times, May 27, 2021

Dear John,

Wow! I think it is safe to say you will win a Pulitzer for your writing someday. These novels are absolute humdingers, and I think they are full of the right stuff. I was just blown away by everything. But I had one question: Why are there so many werewolves?

Just a few instances, going through your work —

“Of Mice and Men and Werewolves”: I don’t think Lennie needs to be a werewolf for this story to work! I think he could just be a guy, although I did like the sad part at the end where George has to load a silver bullet into his gun while telling Lennie to think about rabbits.

“Cannery Row”: I didn’t like how this book began with 60 pages of graphic detail about werewolf reproductive habits. I think the rest of the book is excellent, but I would for sure cut those first 60 pages.

“East of Eden”: The intertwined stories of two rival werewolf packs in California’s Salinas Valley, the Trasks and the Hamiltons. I don’t think they need to be werewolves, John. I think they could just be families.

This bit, however, was deeply moving:

I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible. But even stronger than a loving woman is a werewolf, I would think. If I had to rank by strength it would be: werewolf, woman with love in her heart, strong woman, man.

Find a way to preserve somehow?

“The Pearl”: I liked how Baby Coyotito didn’t die at the end because he was a werewolf! But I don’t think he should be a werewolf.

“The Red Pony”: This was great until I realized the pony was red because a werewolf had mauled it. I think other things could happen to this pony.

“Travels with Charley, My Werewolf Dog”: Again I don’t think this will have the mass readership you would like it to have.

“The Grapes of Wrath”: I loved how there weren’t any werewolves in this, but I was disappointed that you explicitly stated, “There aren’t any werewolves in this book because there is too much dust in the sky for the full moon to change them.”

“The Werewolves of Wrath”: Okay. I think the author’s note you wrote on this one speaks for itself — “I figured out what to do about the fact that there weren’t any werewolves in ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ I just replaced the dust with werewolves. People have to leave their farms because there are too many werewolves everywhere ruining the corn. I think this motivation is much better and simpler. People hear about dust and they think, ‘I have seen dust, and I have removed it with a damp rag.’ But when they hear, ‘The werewolves descended on the Joad family’s forty acres,’ they understand that this is a real problem that you could not resolve with a damp rag. They think, ‘Get those Joads out of there!’"

Murder at Full Moon”: Let’s just put this in a drawer and never speak of it again.

John, you were so eloquent when you said, “I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one. … Humans are caught — in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too — in a net of good and evil. … There is no other story. Well, there is one other story: if you are a werewolf." But I am just not sure about that last part. I think if you get rid of that last part, you will really have something.

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