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V.C. Andrews and the Posthumous Writers Club

Authors who are still scaring us from beyond the grave.

posthumous writers

On February 2nd, The Umbrella Lady—the latest book from notable horror author V.C. Andrews—will be published. V.C. Andrews passed away in 1986 at the age of 63, and while posthumous publication of a novel isn't all that uncommon, there is one unusual thing about The Umbrella Lady's timing. It's the first in a series.

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The Umbrella Lady follows a young girl—Saffron Faith Anders—after she's lost her father waiting at a train station. She's sure he'll come back, but the hours pass and night begins to fall. Then a woman approaches, strange, old, and carrying a large umbrella. She offers Saffron her home for a quick rest, and while the girl is reluctant to trust any stranger, she knows that the longer her father is away the less likely he is to return...

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She only meant to visit for a few hours, at most. However, Saffron soon discovers she's trapped in a house full of sinister secrets, at the complete mercy of the Umbrella Lady. This strange woman manages to be grandmotherly and warm at times, but at others she is ruthlessly cruel, shearing Saffron's hair and burning all her clothes. And she refuses to talk about the mysterious portrait of a young girl hanging on the wall. Letters from Saffron's father promising to return for her arrive at the house, just enough to give her a simmering spark of hope. But how often is it that the ones that hurt us are the ones we love the most?

As far as how V.C. Andrews could be publishing so many new books after her death more than three decades ago, it's moderately known knowledge that author Andrew Neiderman has been ghostwriting under the name for years. Neiderman picked up the pen in her name in 1987, and has since then wrote a wealth of chilling novels to carry on her legacy. He helped to finish the book Andrews was working on when she passed away—the fifth novel in the Dollanganger Series, Garden of Shadows, and he is the mastermind behind the new Umbrella Series launching this year.

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However, as successful as this attempt to keep Andrews' good name going may be, this is not the typical situation for posthumous writers. Following Richard Laymon's death in 2001, several more of his books-in-progress were released—including Darkness, Tell Us and No Sanctuary—but the posthumous releases petered out in 2005. Michael Crichton died in 2008, but Richard Preston continued on the scientific survivalist horror book Micro, which had been a third of the way finished. Even true crime books like I'll Be Gone in the Dark—published two years after the tragic death of Michelle McNamara and two months before an arrest would be made in the case—which was updated by other true crime writers Paul Haynes, Billy Jensen and her widower Patton Oswalt, found posthumous success.

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Whether someone else ghostwrites the future of their catalogue, or their abandoned in-progress works slowly make their way into the public, the posthumous works of these influential writers create a legacy which transcends the grave.

Featured image from cover of "The Umbrella Lady" by V.C. Andrews