May 2, 2005



WHEN Harper Lee published "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 1960, it caused a sensation.

Lee won a Pulitzer and the book became an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck as bigotry-battling lawyer Atticus Finch.

Then Lee practically disappeared. She never wrote another book, and she gave her last interview in 1964.

But like her reclusive character Boo Radley, Lee recently emerged to perform an act of kindness.

The author signed a first edition of her book that will be sold to raise money for the seriously ill son of Cookeville, Tenn., police chief Bob Terry.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 2, 2005 6:37 AM

Didn't Harper Lee give a lot of help to Truman Capote (a.k.a. Dill) when he was trying to interview all those Kansas farmers for "In Cold Blood"? Hard to imagine Mr. Capote getting the confidence of the red staters back then.

Posted by: Ted Welter at May 2, 2005 10:53 AM

The rumor has long been that she wrote it.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 11:03 AM

I've long been skeptical of the claim that Capote wrote it, but you do have to wonder why after such a stunning first start she never wrote another book.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 2, 2005 11:49 PM

Not to mention morphing into J.D. Salinger, except more reclusive, since as I recall Salinger let some guy hang around him a few years ago and write about it. What was his name? Kinsella?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at May 2, 2005 11:54 PM

Maybe she just didn't have much imagination and never got past the autobiographical first novel. Many don't write anything good after theirs.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 11:55 PM

It's been a while since I read the letters of Flannery O'Connor, but I think she once wrote a friend that "To Kill a Mockingbird" was fine novel for girls. Which I think, while a little too dismissive, is true. I have great affection for the book having read it (and re-read it) as a kid, but I suspect if I had encountered it first as an adult my opinion might be different. I have a son who is getting to be old enough for TKAM; maybe we'll read it aloud together.

Posted by: ted welter at May 3, 2005 10:19 AM

No argument from me on that, Orrin. Heroes and villians make for good juvenile fiction. If all you are looking for is to root for a hero and hiss at a villian (all along empathizing with a charming narrarator), you can't do much better than "To Kill a Mockingbird." If you want a deeper, more grown-up, more horrifying, and more hilarious examination of our fallen state, O'Connor is the southern lady writer to read.

Posted by: ted welter at May 3, 2005 12:53 PM

Certainly, but you'll scare the heck out of the kids.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 1:22 PM