7 One-hit Wonders in Literature


Big, successful, first-novels are usually followed by more. But here are 7 that, for one reason or other, qualify their authors for the One-Hit Wonder category:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This instant classic was based on people and occurrences from Harper Lee's childhood, from when she was just ten years old. A controversial book to some, its themes include the Deep South, racial injustice, class, courage, and gender. Published in 1960, it was made into a movie only two years later. A play based on the book is also performed regularly. A case of Quit while you’re ahead? Possibly. Though she’s written some short essays and is still alive as of this post, she has never tried to publish another novel. According to Wiki, she did work on a second novel called The Long Goodbye, but never finished it.

2. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Published in 1936, Margaret Mitchell's first and only novel was sold for the unprecedented price of $3. Her famous Civil War era love story centers around Scarlett O'Hara, the daughter of a plantation owner. Though a famous movie and several plays have been made from the book, she refused to write a sequel. Tragically, Margaret Mitchell died before her time, after being struck by a car in 1949.

3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë, one of the famous Brontë sisters (along with Charlotte and Anne), published Wuthering Heights in 1847 under the pen name Ellis Bell to mixed reviews. Set in Yorkshire, the story centers around the tragic love story of Heathcliff and Catherine; their love consumes and eventually destroys them. Why only one novel? Well, Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis the year after the book was published. Of course, it was later made into several movies and plays.

4. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Written in her later years, while confined to her house, Anna Sewell published Black Beauty in 1877. It broke sales records so quickly she was able to appreciate its success before she died five months later. Black Beauty tells the story of the title character, a horse, through his point of view. Each chapter teaches the reader a lesson about kindness and understanding toward horses. Anna Sewell had been drawn to horses partly because of a childhood injury that left her unable to walk or stand for long periods of time.

5. Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr.

Trying to write the Great American Novel, Lockridge published Raintree County in 1948. The book was a critical success. It is set in a fictional county in Indiana in the time surrounding the Civil War. Themes include westward expansion, slavery, and the Industrial Revolution. Why was this his only novel? Whelp, like many of the others on this list, Lockridge died young, committing suicide shortly after publication. Raintree County was later made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.

6. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

Written from the point of view of a geisha working in Japan, this novel traces the main character from her youth throughout her career. While it is a work of fiction, Memoirs of a Geisha gives us a look into a geisha's life by revealing actual traditions and rituals, and making us familiar with the challenges of that life. The book was published in 1997 and is, so far, Arthur Golden's only published novel. It was later made into a movie.

7. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Unable to get the book published himself, A Confederacy of Dunces was published in 1980, 11 years after John Kennedy Toole committed suicide. His mother had found an old copy of the manuscript and made it a personal goal to see the book in print. She managed to get writer Walker Percy to assist, and he later contributed a foreword to the book. Set in the early 1960s in New Orleans, the story revolves around a grown man living with his mother who must finally go out and get a job. This adventure causes him to cross paths with many colorful characters. The book became a cult classic and a true success. Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. There have been several attempts to make the book into a movie, but as of yet nothing has come of it.