Bethanne Patrick in the Washington Post today reviews the newest "authorized" sequel to Margaret Mitchell's 1936 blockbuster, "Gone with the Wind," a novel by Donald McCaig entitled "Rhett Butler's People." It is the second step in the licensure of the GWTW brand-name by the Stephens Mitchell Trusts, originally created to benefit Mitchell's descendents by exploiting the property. The first full-scale sequel to the original, Alexandra Ripley's 1991 "Scarlett," was a huge bestseller.
In 2001, the trust tried to stop Houghton Mifflin's publication of Alice Randall's "The Wind Done Gone," alleging copyright infringement, but a federal court ruled that the book was a parody, which is protected by the First Amendment. In a telephone interview while the case was pending, trustee Paul Anderson clarified the trust's objectives in fighting unauthorized uses of the brand, while pushing its own knockoffs: "We set out to do what the [trust] instrument said, which was to exploit the rights."
It's not clear why it took 16 years to get a second sequel written, given the market's interest in the characters. For a time, Pat Conroy was in negotiations to write a sequel, but backed off when the trust imposed conditions he couldn't accept, including control over the plot (no killing off Scarlett, for one thing) and aspects of the writing.
Donald McCaig, based in Virginia, has written many fiction and nonfiction books, including several novels set around the time of the Civil War. He's no hack. In its advance review of "Rhett Butler's People," Publishers Weekly said McCaig "imparts a Faulknerian tone to the saga that sharpens Mitchell's critique of Southern nostaligia."