This year sees the release of Harper Lee's book, "Go Set A Watchman," her second novel, no less than 55 years after her first book, "To Kill A Mockingbird." Although Lee won numerous awards, medals and honorary degrees for her Pulitzer-awarded American classic, she declined to speak about her work and became increasingly private. According to her estate, the book was written before "To Kill A Mockingbird" and now stands as a controversial sequel to its much beloved characters.
Writing is a notoriously lonely profession and it's not uncommon for the type of person who can conceive of spending hundreds of hours alone in front of a blank page would recoil away from the buzzing energy of the literary social scene. So while the disdain for the whole process drove several authors away from the desire to produce followup books, some, Harper Lee included, simply felt they'd peaked early. Lee's sister recalls her saying simply, "I haven't anywhere to go but down," following her literary success.
While several classic authors declined to write another novel and instead focused their efforts on novellas, short stories and poetry (Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allen Poe, J.D. Salinger and Boris Pasternak, among others), several simply quit books altogether. Here are 5 authors who, after their masterpiece, never wrote a book again.
Margaret Mitchell, "Gone with the Wind"
After being persuaded to begin writing a novel during her recovery period from complicated ankle injuries, Margaret Mitchell would up spending the next decade toiling at her enormous debut novel, "Gone with the Wind." Mitchell didn't enjoy the attention the book brought her and was struck by a car and killed in 1949, just 13 years after her first publication.
Emily Brontë, "Wuthering Heights"
Hailing from a literary family-- her sisters were Charlotte Brontë and Anne Brontë, of "Jane Eyre" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall," respectively-- the second youngest of the Brontë sisters published only one novel. "Wuthering Heights" was met with mixed reviews but has since been hailed as a classic. A year later, Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis at age 30.
John Kennedy Toole, "A Confederacy of Dunces"
The book was never published in Toole's lifetime: in 1980, the manuscript was sent to publishers by the author's mother. Joh Kennedy Toole had committed suicide 11 years earlier. In 1981, “Confederancy of Dunces,” a hefty novel following a 30-year-old protagonist who lives with his mother in the French Quarter of New Orleans, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Anna Sewell, "Black Beauty"
After teenage injuries left her with limited mobility, Anna Sewell, a devout Quaker, heavily relied on horse-drawn carriages for transportation. She wrote her novel, "Black Beauty," to inspire humane treatment for animals among their caretakers and future caretakers. With failing health, Sewell dictated the book to her mother. Anna Sewell died of tuberculosis just five months after publication.
Ross Lockridge, Jr, "Raintree County"
After publishing "Raintree Country," a 1948 novel about American mythology set against the backdrop of the Civil War, Ross Lockridge, Jr, achieved serious literary acclaim, rising to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. Despite this, the author committed suicide just three months after "Raintree County" was published.