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"Scarlett" fever is back!

Great balls of fire! Do Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler finally get back together? The answer to this burning question can be found in Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, published last September by Warner Books. More than 55 years after Mitchell's novel first his bookstores, Gone With the Wind and its feisty heroine are still hot!

From the time her novel was published, Margaret Mitchell steadfastly refused to write a continuation of the saga of Scarlett and Rhett. "I do not have a notion of what happened to them, and I left them to their ultimate fate," Mitchell told those who asked. "With two such determinedcharacters, it would be hard to predict what happened to them." Following her death in 1949, her brother, Stephens Mitchell, continued for decades to reject sequel offers.

But he was aware that the battle could not be waged forever. The expiration of Gone With the Wind's copyright in 2011, he knew, would not doubt unleash countless spin-offs of the story. So Mitchell appointed a committee of three Atlanta attorneys to oversee the writing of an authorized sequel. Working with the William Morrow Literary Agency in 1987, the committee considered 12 candidates for the project before finally selecting the novelist Alexandra Braid Ripley.

Ripley is well connected to the world of Scarlett and Rhett. She grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, the soul of the South and Rhett Butler's hometown. As a child, she took nickels from tourists in return for directions to Rhett Butler's grave.

In 1981, while working as a bookstore stook clerk, Ripley's first novel, Charleston, was published. Set in the post-Civil War era, Charleston received outstanding reviews from critics, who compared the book with GWTW. Ripley's career was launched, and several thick, historical novels later (On Leaving Charleston, New Orleans Legacy, The Time Returns), she found herself selected to pen the GWTW sequel.

Ripley developed the sequel's plot in consultation with the three lawyers, who wanted to make sure that the integrity of Mitchell's novel remained intact. To prepare for writing the sequel, Ripley read Mitchell's novel at least six times, noting dates and studying the language. In addition, she hand-copied 200 pages of the book to experience Mitchell's style.

As part of her research, Ripley made several trips to Atlanta and Charleston. She studied train timetables between those two cities from the year 1873, maps of city streets, letters, diaries, and old newspapers. Scenes from the 1939 film helped her imagine the rooms in Scarlett's Atlanta house. Ripley chose Charleston buildings dating from the sequel's period as Rhett's town house and the home of Scarlett's aunts.

On publication day, September 25, 1991, with the curiosity of GWTW fans at Scarlett-fever pitch, Warner Books frantically filled orders for more than a million copies.

Since 1936, Margaret Mitchell's novel has sold more than 28 million copies in 27 languages and still sells almost 50,000 hardcover and 250,000 paperback copies a year. Here are some facts you may not know about the book and the author who started it all.

* The author kept her name after marriage: Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell.

* She published only one magazine piece, "Matrimonial Bonds," which appeared in an Atlanta periodical, the Open Door, in 1925.

* She worked for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine as a reporter at a salary of $25 a week. Her most famous interview subject was Rudolph Valentino.

* Mitchell resigned in 1926 and filled her time researching information on the War Between the States.

* She was confined to her apartment by a sprained ankle and began writing the Civil War novel that became Gone With the Wind.

* She wrote her book using a Remington portable typewriter and yellow copy paper.

* She write the last chapter of GWTW first.

* Mitchell kept completed chapters of GWTW in Manila envelopes that she sacked on the floor of her apartment.

* She was fatally hit by a car in 1949.

Pauline Bartel is an avid GWTW fan and author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (Taylor Publishing Company, 1989.)
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Title Annotation:Gone with the Wind trivia
Author:Bartel, Pauline C.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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