English professor helps bring posthumous Ralph Ellison novel to life

Ralph Ellison spent four decades writing but never finishing a novel to follow "Invisible Man," which was a meteoric success in 1952 and remains an American classic. Ellison’s unfinished second novel was published this year, and a CU-Boulder associate professor is one of two editors who brought the legendary author’s work to fruition.

When Ellison died in 1994, he left behind 27 archival boxes of manuscript pages for his unfinished and untitled second novel. The material included handwritten notes, typewritten pages, and more than 460 computer files on 84 disks. Ellison’s sprawling maze of drafts—with no accompanying instruction on what to do with them—presented a particular challenge.

"Three Days Before the Shooting: The Unfinished Second Novel" is the product of 15 years of work by Adam Bradley, associate professor of English at CU-Boulder, and John Callahan, a humanities professor at Lewis and Clark College. Bradley and Callahan edited the new book for a general audience, not simply for scholars.

“We decided we wanted to keep with the democratic spirit of Ellison’s writing … so that everyday people could pick it up and enjoy it as fiction,” Bradley said.