Byline: MATT ROPER
LOCKED behind the thick steel door of a safe, inside an isolated house in a remote wood, lie what could be some of the greatest works of literature ever written.
Yet the words that fill every page have never been read by anyone except the reclusive genius who wrote them.
And now, at least 15 unpublished novels by JD Salinger, the American author of The Catcher in the Rye who died this week aged 91, could well be destroyed.
Fans of the author, one of the 20th century's most influential writers, have longed for more since his last published work, a story in a magazine back in 1965.
But while his most famous work sold more than 60 million copies worldwide, Salinger retreated from society, giving his last interview in 1980, and was rarely seen in public.
However, he never stopped writing. For 40 years, alone inside a concrete bunker in his rural New Hampshire home, he is said to have furiously bashed away at his typewriter.
But he didn't allow anyone to see his latest works - locking the precious manuscripts away as soon as they were finished.
Tributes to the legendary author poured in yesterday after his son, actor Matt Salinger, released a short statement that his father had died of natural causes at his home on Wednesday night.
Horror novelist Stephen King said it felt like "an eccentric, short-tempered, but often fascinating uncle had passed away".
But it is the fate of the author's secret cache which is causing the most interest - and distress - to fans.
While there was speculation Salinger wanted the books to be published after his death, others have hinted he may have ordered that they should all be destroyed.
Whatever happens, this last chapter in Salinger's fascinating life is likely to throw up far more questions than answers.
Almost nothing is known about the author's life since he retreated into selfimposed seclusion in 1953, in the tiny village of Cornish, New Hampshire.
In his last interview, for a high school newspaper in 1980, he said: "I love to write and I assure you I write regularly. But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it."
Others from the small local community described how he would walk away if approached in the street and, when he went to restaurants, ate in the kitchen.
What is known about Jerome David Salinger is that he was born in New York in 1919 and was raised in an affluent Manhattan neighbourhood. …