US copyright in The Great Gatsby, which is generally regarded as one of the best novels ever written, expires on 1 January 2021, meaning that the work enters the public domain and can be freely adapted for the first time.

On July 15, of this year it was announced that a book titled Nick, focusing on the narrator of The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, will be published early next year.

Because Gatsby was originally published in 1925, the book’s United States copyright will expire on January 1, 2021, which means it will become part of the public domain. Nick, the Gatsby prequel by Michael Farris Smith, will be published four days later, on 5 January, in the US, by Little, Brown; and on 25 February in the UK by No Exit Press. A brief synopsis for the new book—taken from publisher Little, Brown and Company, which is handling the publication in the U.S.—reads: “Charged with enough alcohol, heartbreak, and profound yearning to paralyze even the heartiest of golden age scribes, Nick reveals the man behind the narrator who has captivated readers for decades.” The book, written by Michael Farris Smith, is expected to take readers through World War I with Nick and up to the point when he meets Jay Gatsby in Long Island’s West Egg, just before the events of The Great Gatsby begin to unfold.

In a statement, Smith said Nick’s character has always resonated with him. “His feelings on turning 30 and a decade of uncertainty before him have always rung true to my own emotions when I was the same age,” said Smith, whose other works include Blackwood, The Fighter and Desperation Road.

“The last time I read Gatsby, a few years ago, Nick stayed in my imagination and he reveals so little about himself in the story, I couldn’t help but begin to create him in my mind, and I knew the only way to get it out was to put it on the page,” said Smith. “So I embraced the idea and dove into it with all those emotions fuelling the creation.”

No Exit’s editor-in-chief, Geoffrey Mulligan, said that Farris Smith’s story was exceptional. “The trenches and the bomb craters are utterly vivid, the silence of the tunnels deafening. And the ending – the clever ending that brought Nick’s story to a close while opening up the world of West Egg – is perfect,” he said.

More than 25m copies of The Great Gatsby have been sold since it was published in 1925.

The nature of copyright law means that all literary works will eventually enter public domain. The Great Gatsby is certainly not alone in that regard. Works by Edith Wharton, Agatha Christie and thousands of other writers entered public domain in 2019. Next year, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway’s first novels will join Gatsby.