Fury over O'Brian book plan
May 20, 2004
The family of Patrick O'Brian, the author whose historical novels have sold millions of copies around the world, have expressed dismay over the publication of a fragment of the book he was working on when he died.
O'Brian wrote 20 novels about the seafaring adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his friend Stephen Maturin, a series which spawned the Oscar-winning film Master and Commander.
His last three chapters of work, to which he had not given a name, are due to be published under the title of XXI in Britain and 21 in North America, next year.
But the sole beneficiaries of O'Brian's estate, the six grandchildren of his second wife Mary, claim they were not consulted about the plans and believe the unfinished manuscript, which will be reproduced in facsimile, will be an insult to his memory.
Nikolai Tolstoy, O'Brian's stepson and father of four of the beneficiaries, said the book was at a "crude" stage and to publish it would be a "travesty" which the reclusive and perfectionist author would have loathed.
"It is crude and unfinished. He would have been dismayed and horrified."
O'Brian died aged 85 in January 2000. It is thought the manuscript was found among his belongings in the Dublin hotel where he died.
Its existence came as a surprise to his friends and fans because he had said after the publication of Blue at the Mizzen, the 20th book in the series, that he would write no more.
Both O'Brian's literary agent in Britain and his American publisher said they believed they were doing the best for his estate, his memory and for his hundreds of thousands of fans.
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