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  • Writer's pictureChristopher G. Moore

ONE HIT WONDERS: Western and Asian examples

In music and books there is something known as one hit wonders. This means someone who has had a hit song or book. One that has been a large commercial success and thereafter nothing ever quite matches that earlier hit and they sink into oblivion. I have included six western examples and two Asian based examples of novels that made a big splash but never were followed by anything similar by the author.

In the world of books, there are many examples of One Hit Wonders.

1. Toole, John Kennedy who wrote a first novel, couldn’t find a publisher and after killing himself, left it to his mother to find the publisher who brought him, after death, a one-hit wonder: Confederacy of Dunces

2. Mitchell, Margaret who authored Gone With the Wind spent the rest of her life answering correspondence from adoring fans who couldn’t get enough of Scarlett O'Hara and the antebellum days of the American South during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

3. Lee, Harper, Truman Capote's cousin, authored To Kill a Mockingbird A lawyer defends a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Another novel set in the deep South.

4. Heller, Joseph set the literary world on fire with Catch-22, a novel set in World War II, with Yossarian, the central character, who flies a bomber and plots for a way to escape the war. Heller wrote other books but none ever matched Catch-22 which has entered the English language as the equivalent of being caught between a rock and hard place.

5. Jones, James, who like Heller, made his name with a World War II novel titled From Here to Eternity. It was made into a movie with Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, and Frank Sinatra.

6. Webb, Charles who wrote The Graduate and now at age 66 is being evicted from his digs in Hove for non-payment of rent. Webb accepted a one-off payment of 14,000 pounds for his the film rights to his novel. Big mistake. The upfront money Webb is walking around money for Dustin Hoffman whose film career was launched by the film.

Asian based fiction is no exception to the one hit wonder:

7. Mason, Richard wrote the classic titled the World of Suzie Wong He never wrote much of anything else and lived off the money he made from the book and film. In an interview is admitted most of the first half was drawn from his life. Mason didn’t produce anything fiction after this success.

8. Reynolds, Jack wrote A woman of Bangkok in the early 1950s. Many local reviews refer to A Woman of Bangkok as the ultimate or classical novel about the Bangkok night scene. Personally I find the novel dated and the central character, an Englishman, is so incredibly dense or stupid or both that I could never feel the slightest amount of sympathy for him. It was difficult not to root for the bar girls who milked him dry. Reynolds never wrote anything else that amounted to anything.

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