Much ink has been spilled in telling the story of the making of Gone With the Wind- be it the book, the movie, or the subsequent musicals and merchandise. So it’s not only refreshing but downright commendable that in their biography, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood (Taylor Trade Publishing, 2011), Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley, Jr. managed to stumble upon a story that has been almost entirely ignored until now. Rather than focusing the biography on an individual involved with Gone With the Wind, the authors explore the life of the novel itself, from its inception through to its future.
What emerges from their narrative is a fascinating perspective on the life of a tremendously successful book– a story that’s equal parts legal thriller and manners drama, and peopled by a cast of colorful characters. We’ve flapper Peggy Mitchell, her stern husband, and her lawyer brother, whose Southern affability is put to the test by the slew of glitzy publishing people they encounter in New York, all of whom seem to bungle the novel’s publication in one way or another.
Thanks to that bungling, the case of Gone With the Wind provides a crash course in the history of United States copyright law and that may be the enduring legacy of Brown and Wiley’s book. It leaves one with a renewed appreciation for the grit and determination of Miss. Mitchell- an oftimes undervalued literary figure, who fought viciously to retain her authorial rights around the world, during war-time and in an age long before email.