Wednesday 28 September 2016

Go Set a Watchman - new claims cast doubt over how and when To Kill a Mockingbird sequel was discovered

Jess Denham

Published 03/07/2015 | 15:05

Author Nelle Harper Lee
Author Nelle Harper Lee

When Harper Lee announced that the sequel to her beloved To Kill a Mockingbird would be released this year, no-one expected so much mystery and intrigue to surround its release.

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With just days to go before Go Set a Watchman reaches book stores on Tuesday 14 July, the story has deepened further, as previous reports of who discovered the manuscript and when have been thrown into question.

HARPER LEE: The author’s original book ‘Go Set a Watchman’ which is due to be published soon, was thought to be an early draft of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird
HARPER LEE: The author’s original book ‘Go Set a Watchman’ which is due to be published soon, was thought to be an early draft of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird

Publisher Harper Collins and Lee's lawyer Tonja B Carter have said that Carter stumbled upon the novel when she found it attached to an old typescript of Mockingbird she was reviewing last August. The same characters featured, but the plot was set 20 years later.

Carter was "stunned" after finding what Lee confirmed was "the parent of Mockingbird", but now, another claim suggests that Go Set A Watchman was first discovered in late 2011 by a rare books expert from Sotheby's auction house.

Justin Caldwell flew to Alabama to meet Carter and Lee's then literary agent Samuel Pinkus to assess the value of a Mockingbird manuscript, the New York Times reports.

The meeting allegedly took place at a bank in Lee's hometown of Monroeville where some of her writings were kept in a safe-deposit box, along with her typewriter.

Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel,
Harper Lee, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To kill a Mockingbird," has announced that "Go Set a Watchman," a novel Lee completed in the 1950s and put aside, will be released July 14. It will be her second published book. (AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Two documents were presented to Caldwell - a publisher's proof of Mockingbird and the Go Set a Watchman typescript. Caldwell read the first few chapters and announced that the latter seemed to be an early version of Mockingbird.

So what does this mean for Carter and her differing report? The lawyer admitted last week that she had been present at the bank meeting after Lee's late older sister Alice asked her to be. However, she said that she had been sent to run an errand before the documents had been reviewed and denied ever being told about the different manuscript.

"If Sam discovered the Go Set a Watchman manuscript at that time, he told neither me nor Miss Alice nor Nelle," Carter said in a statement, with the name Nelle referring to what family and friends call Lee.

Pinkus quickly refuted her claims, saying: "Ms Carter was present in the safe-deposit room and, along with Mr Caldwell and I, read manuscript pages."

Actor Gregory Peck is shown as attorney Atticus Finch, a small-town Southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape, in a scene from
Actor Gregory Peck is shown as attorney Atticus Finch, a small-town Southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape, in a scene from "To Kill a Mockingbird" film.

He was fired by Carter and sued by Lee in 2013, after the author accused him of conning her into transferring the Mockingbird copyright to him. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

Sotheby's is unable to discuss the bank meeting as it views appraisals as confidential.

A spokeswoman for Harper Collins said the publisher believes Carter's account despite her not mentioning the 2011 Sotheby's visit.

This is just the latest in a string of controversies ahead of Go Set a Watchman's publication. Many readers became concerned that Lee, aged 89, frail and living in a nursing home, had been manipulated into releasing it as it remains unknown why she waited to long to do so. The Pulitzer Prize winner has also previously said that she had no intentions of publishing another work.

Lee has not given a formal interview since the mid-Sixties but her acerbic response to one journalist who sent her a letter to test her lucidity and ask for details surrounding the new novel might be telling. "Go away! Harper Lee" is the scrawled response he received.

Lee previously said she had not realised the manuscript of her new book had survived and said she was "humbled and amazed" it was going to be published now.

Go Set a Watchman revolves around the now-adult Scout's return to her native Alabama from New York to visit her father. Its release will be met with global media attention and preorders have already placed it in Amazon's bestselling lists.

(© Independent News Service)

Mockingbird sequel - To kill a masterpiece?  

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