JD Sallinger has been in the news again lately, three years after his death. There's a new documentary about the reclusive author that hit theaters in a limited release this month, with talks of it being turned into a feature film. Although the documentary dropped the bombshell that Sallinger wrote other books that are set to be published started in 2015, until now he has been known as a one-hit novel wonder for Catcher in the Rye.
his made me think about one-hit wonders in the crime fiction realm, i.e., those famous for one and only one book (or even rarer, those who published only one). These are actually a lot harder to find than you might think, at least in crime fiction, where series characters are popular. Some notable examples include:
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890); part crime fiction, part sci-fi allegory
- Never Come Back by John Mair (1941) (he was killed during WWII)
- The Horizontal Man by Helen Eustis (1947); she won the Edgar for first novel for this book, wrote one more mystery and vanished from publishing
- The End is Known by Geoffrey Holiday Hall (1950); also won Edgar for best first novel
- The House Without a Door by Thomas Sterling (1951); yes, another Edgar winner
- The Eleventh Hour by Robert B. Sinclair (1952); won Edgar for best first novel
- Much Ado About Murder by Fred Lavon (1956); won Edgar for best first novel
- Root of Evil by James Cross (1958); nominated for an Edgar for best first novel
- Knock and Wait a While by William Rawle Weeks (1958) won Edgar
- Florentine Finish by Cornelius Hirschberg (1964) won Edgar
- The Seven Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer (1974); the bestselling Sherlock Holmes pastiche was his only novel, although he is a noted film screenwriter, producer and director
- The Cook by Harry Kressing (1984)
In searching for these titles, I began to think that being nominated for, or winning, the Edgar for Best First Novel was akin to winning the Oscar for Best Actress—win, then disappear forever. But, I think First Novel winners Tony Hillerman, Bill Pronzini, James Patterson, Jonathan Kellerman, Elizabeth George, Patricia D. Cornwell, Don Winslow, and Michael Connelly have all done pretty well for themselves.