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‘The Graduate’ sequel to revive Mrs. Robinson

Benjamin, Elaine are parents in ‘Home School’
/ Source: The Associated Press

Here’s to you — Mrs. Robinson is back.

Elusive American writer Charles Webb said Wednesday he has signed a publishing deal for a sequel to his 1963 novel “The Graduate,” which introduced the memorable love triangle of twentysomething Benjamin Braddock, his sweetheart Elaine and her seductive mother, Mrs. Robinson.

The 1967 film adaptation, directed by Mike Nichols, made a star of Dustin Hoffman and created a screen icon in Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson.

Now, Webb is ready to reveal the characters’ fate.

“It was quite a while till I could figure out what they did next,” he said.

“Home School” picks up the lives of Braddock and Elaine about 10 years on, living in upstate New York with their two children and trying to keep Mrs. Robinson at bay.

Random House said it planned to publish the book in Britain in June 2007. It has world rights to the novel, but has not announced a U.S. publication date. Stuart Applebaum, a spokesman for the U.S. division of Random House, said the publisher was still waiting to see material from the new book before making any decisions.

Paul Sidey, editor at Random House’s Hutchinson imprint, said the book was “short, sharp and very funny. And there is a last hurrah for the mother-in-law from hell.”

Sequels to classic stories have a mixed record. Alexandra Ripley’s “Scarlett,” the authorized follow-up to Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind,” came out in 1991 and sold millions of copies, but was quickly forgotten. Michael Walsh’s “As Time Goes By,” a sequel to “Casablanca” published in 1998, attracted little interest.

Webb said he received $56,000 for the book, a modest sum clearly needed. He has led an itinerant life and given away much of his fortune since gaining fame with his first novel.

Author was almost homelessEarlier this year, Webb faced eviction from his apartment in Hove in southern England because of unpaid rent.

Webb, 66, said it was the threat of homelessness for himself and his partner of 40 years — a woman who goes by the name of Fred — that prompted him to approach publishers with the novel he had been working on for several years.

“I have a person in California who advises me and she said, ’Don’t wait until it’s finished. You’ll be finishing it out on the street,”’ Webb said. “So I sold it before I intended to.”

The movie version of “The Graduate” made millions, but Webb did not get a share of the film rights and did not receive any of the money.

“Mercifully I wasn’t written into that deal,” Webb said of the film. “Nobody understands why I felt so relieved, but I count my longevity to not being swept into that. My wife and I have done a lot of things we wouldn’t have done if we were rich people.

“I wouldn’t have gotten to the point of writing this. I would have been counting my money instead of educating my children,” he said.

Asked about a possible film deal for the sequel, Webb said he plans to seek legal advice on whether he holds the copyright to the film characters, or whether those rights were signed away with the rights to “The Graduate” film itself, now held by French media company Canal Plus.

In 1988, Webb said he was nearly destitute, living out of a van in Williamstown, Mass. He was given shelter by a woman in Connecticut who had read of his plight, but left soon after.

“It’s not fair to say she threw us out,” Webb said at the time. “There was just a difference of opinion on the nudism.”

The couple moved to Britain in 2000. Since then, Webb has spent much of his time caring for Fred, who suffered a nervous breakdown in 2001.

Webb said she is recovering, and he has continued to write. In 2001, he published the novel “New Cardiff,” made into the movie “Hope Springs,” starring Colin Firth and Heather Graham.

He said he has a couple of unproduced plays and a collection of short stories he hopes will also be released.

“Home School” is based on Webb’s own experience of pulling his children out of the California school system in the 1970s.

“Not a lot of people picked up on it, but the title of ’The Graduate’ was supposed to convey it was about education,” he said. “Benjamin is disenchanted with education, and once his kids enter the system he finds it intolerable.”