According to a remarkable article in the New York Times, a nineteenth century Mississippi plantation diary turns out to have been a major source of background material and character detail for William Faulkner’s fiction:
The original manuscript, a diary from the mid-1800s, was written by Francis Terry Leak, a wealthy plantation owner in Mississippi whose great-grandson Edgar Wiggin Francisco Jr. was a friend of Faulkner’s since childhood. Mr. Francisco’s son, Edgar Wiggin Francisco III, now 79, recalls the writer’s frequent visits to the family homestead in Holly Springs, Miss., throughout the 1930s, saying Faulkner was fascinated with the diary’s several volumes. Mr. Francisco said he saw them in Faulker’s hands and remembers that he “was always taking copious notes.”
It’s being called “one of the most sensational literary discoveries of recent decades.” I know. Sounds like a Clifford Irving hoax, or something along the lines of the fake Hitler diaries. But it appears to be true. The Emory University professor and Faulkner scholar responsible for the discovery, Sally Wolff-King, has a book coming out in June from Louisiana State University Press, Ledgers of History: William Faulkner, an Almost Forgotten Friendship, and an Antebellum Diary. Material from the diary shows up in major works from The Sound and the Fury to Go Down, Moses and Absalom, Absalom!
[Update: Explosive allegations in an April 24, 2014 article at the Awl.com suggest Ledgers of History might be a hoax.]