Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, was featured Monday evening on the PBS American Masters series.
The 90-minute Harper Lee episode Harper Lee: Hey Boo ran back-to-back with Gone with the Wind author Margaret Mitchell: An American Rebel.
The back-to-back documentaries pointed out striking similarities between Harper lee and Margaret Mitchell. Both women authored Pulitzer Prize-winning bestsellers, and American classics. Both women’s books became iconic films. Both women were from the south. And both women only wrote one book.
Harper Lee never followed up ‘Mockingbird’ with a second novel. Harper Lee is now 85, and lives in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.
Harper Lee has not granted an interview in 50 years. Is it because in an interview 52 years ago she told Winzola McLendon, columnist for the Washington Post, that a sequel was on the way?
On November 7, 1960, McLendon wrote:
“Now, she’s back in Monroeville writing another book. The subject of the new novel is a well guarded secret between the author and her publisher. But we’ll go out on a limb and predict that it will involve a thrilling murder and a suspense-filled trial.”
Harper Lee: Hey Boo was written and directed by Mary Murphy. Although Harper Lee is not part of the film, she is still alive, as are many other people who are close to her. Her older sister is still practicing law at age 100.
Harper Lee was encouraged to become a writer by her childhood friend Truman Capote. Rumors have circulated that Capote helped Harper Lee with ‘Mockingbird’. But friends of Harper Lee say that, at most, Capote may have made a few comments right before the manuscript went to press.
Harper Lee helped Capote in the initial reporting of his “nonfiction novel” In Cold Blood. Their friendship died after Harper Lee won the Pulitzer for ‘Mockingbird’ and many speculate that it is because Capote was jealous. But Murphy sets up the story as Harper Lee leaving the spotlight around the time Capote was skyrocketing to fame.