The reading world was riveted earlier this week by reports that a long-awaited second volume of Harper Lee’s work, a sequel-slash-prequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, would be released by HarperCollins in July 2015. But speculation is already circulating that this is not in accordance with the author’s wishes or best interests.
Reports from various news sources have noted the coincidental timing in the death of the author’s long-time attorney and older sister, Alice Lee, who by many accounts was the instrumental force behind guarding the author’s privacy and career. Alice Lee retired at the age of 100 and passed away only a few months ago, leaving another attorney in her practice to serve her place as the safeguard of Harper Lee’s interests and career.
Now, attorney Tonja Carter reportedly advocates on behalf of the author, but that relationship has come under fire for a number of recent events, including one in which the author accidentally signed away her rights to her original work while the attorney was looking on. One Gawker article outlined in great detail some suspicious activity involving the author’s copyrights, lawsuits and letters that intended to represent the author but did not in fact represent her true feelings, and even visitation privileges from the author’s oldest friends being formally denied in writing. The article takes pains to point out a very strange relationship, as this attorney is a cousin of Truman Capote, Lee’s one-time best friend before the two became very publicly estranged.
Essentially, critics of the pending release aren’t at issue with its content or its quality, but of the fact that they do not believe the author herself would ever have allowed its publication if she were in better health and had better care watching over her interests. Lee is reportedly nearly blind and deaf and has lived in a care facility since a stroke in 2007, and some people close to her have reported she suffers from dementia. Critics have argued that this book never would have become public if Alice were still alive to protect her sister, her status as the author’s former attorney notwithstanding.
Despite official-looking statements that supposedly give the author’s blessing and cooperation on the publication, there are some differences this time around, one of the most noted being the instant access to formats that this title will offer. Lee was notoriously against an ebook edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, and only acquiesced to a digital publication last year–again, after her sister Alice retired from practicing law and Tonja Carter took over Lee’s affairs.
There are already a number of conflicting reports surrounding the publication of this book, the author’s state of mind and health, and other aspects of this would-be controversy. Go Set a Watchmen is already available for pre-order in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook, and is currently the number one bestselling title on Amazon.