The stieg effect

From David Foster Wallace to John Updike—a banner year for late authors

The stieg effect

Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

The stieg effect
Getty Images; Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

Blame it on Stieg Larsson. The Swedish crime novelist died virtually penniless from a massive heart attack in 2004, but since then his Millennium series (beginning with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) has made him one of the world’s bestselling authors. In 2011, posthumous publishing filled the bookstores.

David Foster Wallace

The acclaimed author of Infinite Jest(1996) left behind pages and notes for a novel at his suicide in September 2008. From them Wallace’s friend and editor Michael Pietsch crafted The Pale King,a darkly funny tale of a group of IRS employees that was praised by critics after its April release.

Beryl Bainbridge

The five-time Booker Prize nominee was working on The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress—based on a disturbing road trip she made across America in 1968—when she died last year. From the response of fans and critics to the finished but unpolished novel, released Sept. 6, Bainbridge might have been up for a sixth Booker nod rather than the special posthumous honour the prize selection committee did extend her.

Shel Silverstein

The author of the classic Where the Sidewalk Ends, who became a children’s author after a stint as a leading Playboy cartoonist, was a perfectionist who held back dozens of songs and poems from publication before his 1999 death. But his executors think the ones in Every Thing On It, released Sept. 24, are plenty good enough as they are.

José Saramago

The Nobel laureate, 87, was still hard at work when he died in 2010. His last novel, Cain—the militantly atheistic author’s take on the Old Testament—came out in English in October.

John Updike

The iconic American author (the Rabbit Angstrom quartet) was compiling Higher Gossip—a collection of reviews and personal essays covering two decades of a very productive writing life, published Nov. 1—at his death in 2009.

Michael Crichton

The prolific writer (more than two dozen novels) of Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain left two unpublished novels behind when lymphoma claimed him in 2008. Micro—a thriller about nanotechnology gone very bad—hit bookstores on Nov. 22.