Literary bombshell: Harper Lee publishing a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird"

It will be the author's first novel in more than 50 years

Published February 3, 2015 3:40PM (EST)

Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in "To Kill a Mockingbird"
Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in "To Kill a Mockingbird"

Remarkable news from the literary world today: The AP reports that Harper Lee will publish her second ever novel this summer — a sequel to her iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which came out in 1960.

The AP reports that the 304-page sequel “Go Set a Watchman” was completed in the 1950s, but only just rediscovered last fall. The book will roll out on July 14th, with a first printing of two million copies. The book is set in Maycomb, Alabama, 20 years after “To Kill a Mockingbird,” at the time that the Civil Rights movement was gaining momentum. "Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus," the publisher's announcement says. "She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood."

The 88-year-old Lee released the following statement:

"In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called `Go Set a Watchman." It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became `To Kill a Mockingbird') from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years."

Since publishing “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Lee has largely stayed out of the limelight, and has published nothing except a few brief essays. The few book projects she has started in the interim —a novel called “The Long Goodbye”and a non-fiction book about an Alabama serial killer —were both shelved. Lee has been rumored to be in poor health lately, too. In a 2011 interview with the Australian Daily Telegraph, Lee's close friend Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts said, "She's in an assisted-living facility. She's 95 per cent blind, profoundly deaf, bound to a wheelchair. Her short-term memory is completely shot, and poor in general."

According to Butts, Lee told him she had two reasons for abandoning the literary world after "Mockingbird: "Two reasons: one, I wouldn't go through the pressure and publicity I went through with 'To Kill a Mockingbird' for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.” According to Lee’s publisher, the author is unlikely to do any publicity for the new book.

By Anna Silman

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Books Harper Lee Sequel To Kill A Mockinbird