The author Douglas Brinkley and the actor Johnny Depp are teaming up to edit “House of Earth,” a previously unpublished novel by the folk singer Woody Guthrie that will be released next spring. Mr. Brinkley said in a telephone interview that the book would appear from “a major New York publisher,” but declined to specify which one before the deal was completed.
The manuscript, which Guthrie finished in 1947, follows a West Texas couple who, in their effort to build adobe homes as protection against treacherous weather, fight against banks and lumber companies.
Mr. Brinkley stumbled upon mention of the work while researching a piece about Bob Dylan for Rolling Stone. “As a Woody Guthrie fan, I didn’t know about this novel,” he said. “There are two great biographies” of Guthrie, by Ed Cray and Joe Klein, he added. “They’re fantastic, readable books, but ‘House of Earth’ isn’t talked about in them. I went on a hunt for it.”
With help from the Woody Guthrie Foundation and the singer’s daughter, Nora, he found the manuscript last fall. The published book will be about 250 pages, Mr. Brinkley said.
In an essay for The New York Times Book Review, Mr. Brinkley and Mr. Depp write:
“Pitched somewhere between rural realism and proletarian protest, somewhat static in terms of narrative drive, “House of Earth” nonetheless offers a searing portrait of the Panhandle and its marginalized Great Depression residents. Guthrie successfully mixes Steinbeck’s narrative verve with D. H. Lawrence’s openness to erotic exploration. When the Library of Congress folklorist Alan Lomax read the first chapter he was profoundly impressed. For months Lomax encouraged Guthrie to finish the book, saying he’d “considered dropping everything I was doing” just to get the novel published. “It was quite simply the best material I’d ever seen written about that section of the country,” he wrote.”
Mr. Brinkley met Mr. Depp in the mid-1990s through their mutual friend Hunter S. Thompson, for whom Mr. Brinkley is literary executor. They previously teamed up to write the Grammy-nominated liner notes for “Gonzo,” a soundtrack accompanying a documentary about Mr. Thompson.
Saturday is the 100th anniversary of Guthrie’s birth.