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'Salinger's going to have a second act unlike any other writer'

Andrew Donaldson | 2013-08-28 23:36:05.0
Andrew Donaldson

Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude. All books available from Exclusives

IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK

'I Am Pilgrim' by Terry Hayes (Bantam) R240

AN ACCLAIMED debut marketed as the "only thriller you'll need to read this year", this mammoth espionage page-turner begins with the discovery of a woman's body in a tub of acid and ends with our hero, New York detective Ben Bradley, in a race against time to avert a monstrous act of terrorism.

THE ISSUE

His alienation from the world and his mania for privacy became part of the JD Salinger myth. Famously reclusive, the author's last published story, Hapworth 16, 1924, appeared in 1965 - but he continued to write, according to some accounts, nearly every day until his death, at 91, in January 2010.

Now the New York Times has reported that work is to be published, and there's going to be quite a bit of it, including new tales about the Glass family, first introduced in Salinger's Zooey; a novel based on his relationship with first wife, Sylvia Welter, a German he married shortly after World War 2; a novella based on counter-intelligence work during the war; and, excitingly, new and reworked stories about Holden Caulfield, known to millions of readers as the protagonist of 1951's Catcher in the Rye and the original voice of adolescent angst.

Next month sees the release of Salinger, a new documentary and biography on the writer. According to director Shane Salerno, who with David Shields co-wrote the book, Salinger left detailed instructions "authorising a specific timetable" - starting in 2015 - for the release of the unpublished work.

"He is going to have a second act unlike any writer in history," Salerno told the New York Times.

The book depicts Salinger as a man "who never recovered from the horrors of war-time combat and the soul-shaking sight of a Nazi death camp filled with burned and smoldering corpses". The authors claim he tried to grapple with post-traumatic stress disorder first with art, and then religion - and therein lay a double paradox: "The war broke him as a man and made him a great artist; religion offered him post-war spiritual solace and killed his art."

CRASH COURSE

Published this week, Giles Milton's espionage history, Russian Roulette: A Deadly Game: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot, is a rollicking account of the prototype East versus West cat-and-mouse stuff that would later characterise the Cold War spy genre.

Some of the antics used by agents in the 1920s seem ludicrous by today's hi-tech standards - exploding gadgets, wearing wigs, switching disguises, and using semen as invisible ink - but it all reads like a thriller.

THE BOTTOM LINE

"If you want the American dream, go to Finland." - The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, by Amanda Ripley (Simon & Schuster).

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