NEW YORK (Reuters) – Surprise, eager anticipation and a tinge of skepticism surrounded the news that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee would publish a second novel half a century after “To Kill a Mockingbird” became an American classic.
Until Tuesday when publisher Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, announced it would publish “Go Set a Watchman,” on July 14, few knew the book existed and even its 88-year-old author had thought it had been lost.
Written in the 1950s before Lee penned her masterpiece, it only came to light after her lawyer discovered it in a safety deposit box with the original manuscript of “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
“How often does the publishing industry have the rare opportunity to publish a second work of an author whose promise was so great but who never completed a second project?” said Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a novel about racism and injustice in the American South, became an instant best-seller and has since sold an estimated 40 million copies worldwide. It was also made into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck as the lawyer Atticus Finch.
Although written first, “Go Set a Watchman,” features Finch 20 years later as his adult daughter Scout returns to visit him in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama.
Lee wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird” after her editor persuaded her to write a novel from the point of view of a young Scout.
News of the second book comes just months after the death of Lee’s sister Alice, a lawyer who represented her interests for decades. The timing has sparked questions about how much Lee,had in the decision to publish it.