“I never expected any sort of success with [To Kill a] Mockingbird. I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of reviewers, but at the same time I hoped that maybe someone would like it enough to give me encouragement – public encouragement. I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected.” – Harper Lee
Salinger is a member of the one-hit-wonder club only if you consider Franny and Zooey, published in 1961, as a novella. Salinger’s last published work, a short story, appeared in The New Yorker in 1965. – JD Salinger
The author committed suicide in 1969, having given up hope of seeing his comic masterpiece in print. Eventually it was published in 1980. A “second novel”, The Neon Bible, followed in 1989 – but this was actually written by Toole as a teenager and, as an adult, rejected as juvenilia. – John Kennedy Toole
Cursed second novels:
Thirteen Moons – Charles Frazier
Frazier’s Cold Mountain sold in bucketloads and he received an $8million advance for Thirteen Moons. It flopped.
For the record: I thought Cold Mountain read like a warmed-over rehash of discarded first drafts collected from Cormac McCarthy’s teenage years.
Shirley- Charlotte Bronte
Published two years after Jane Eyre, Shirley’s most enduring impact is that, until publication, Shirley was a rare name – and a boy’s name at that. But Bronte’s Shirley was female – and now most Shirleys are too.
Spectacular second novels:
Ulysses – James Joyce
Joyce’s debut, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, though brilliantly executed, was an archetypal first novel – a barely disguised autobiographical coming-of-age yarn. Ulysses was something else entirely.
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Eliot (real name Mary Ann Evans) published Adam Bede in 1859, and although her rural tragedy was praised by critics and fellow authors, including Charles Dickens, it is her second novel that became a set text, and the standard-bearer for Victorian social realism.
The Beautiful and Damned – F.Scott Fitzgerald
He confirmed the reputation won with This Side of Paradise two years earlier. The Beautiful and Damned was the Jazz Age chronicler’s first great novel, published by Scribner in 1922. His third was The Great Gatsby.
Not a bad trifecta for Fitzgerald, there. Though I’d say that of the three only The Great Gatsby has really stood the test of time. The other two are eminently readable, but not really classics.