New J.D. Salinger biography and film coming within next year

J.D. Salinger, author of "The Catcher in the Rye", "Nine Stories", and "Franny and Zooey" is seen in this 1951 file photo. AP Photo

A new J.D. Salinger biography and documentary are being billed as an unprecedented look into the mysterious life of the author of "The Catcher in the Rye."

Simon & Schuster announced Tuesday that it had acquired "The Private War of J.D. Salinger," an oral biography compiled by author David Shields and filmmaker-screenwriter Shane Salerno, whose screenplay credits include the Oliver Stone film "Savages." Salinger's own books have been published by Little, Brown and Co.

"We are honored to be the publisher of what we believe will be the foundational book on one of the most beloved and most puzzling figures of the twentieth century," said Simon & Schuster publisher Jonathan Karp. "Many of us who read 'The Catcher in the Rye' have, at some point in our lives, wished we could know the author better. Now, we finally can."

The biography will be published in September 2013, according to the announcement.

Salerno has been working for several years on his documentary, which PBS will air next January for the 200th episode of its "American Masters" series. According to Simon & Schuster, the book and film draw upon interviews "with over 150 sources who either worked directly with author J.D. Salinger, had a personal relationship with him, or were influenced by his work."

Salinger's longtime literary agent, Phyllis Westberg of Harold Ober Associates Inc., declined to comment Tuesday.

Simon & Schuster's announcement does not say whether the ultimate Salinger question is answered: Did he leave behind any unpublished manuscripts? Karp said he could not provide detail beyond what is in the news release.

Virtually nothing new has been learned about the author since he died in New Hampshire in 2010 at age 91. No authorized biography has appeared.

"The myth that people have read about and believed for 60 years about J.D. Salinger is one of someone too pure to publish, too sensitive to be touched. We replace the myth of Salinger with an extraordinarily complex, deeply contradictory human being," Salerno said in a statement. "Our book offers a complete revaluation and reinterpretation of the work and the life."

"Both the film and book are an investigation into the cost of art and the cost of war," Simon & Schuster senior editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler said in a statement. "This is a truly revelatory work, and one that transcends literary biography to investigate the larger story of the legacy of World War II. Through the prism of Salinger's life and his experience at war, the authors are presenting a personal history of the 20th century."

Salinger was reportedly deeply scarred by his service during World War II, when he interrogated prisoners of war.

Simon & Schuster and CBS are owned by the same parent company.

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