Sunday, March 18, 2007

Righting a Wrong about Harper Lee

I've been vaguely aware for a number of years of the rumor that Harper Lee was not really the author of To Kill a Mockingbird and that its true author was none other than Lee's childhood friend, Truman Capote. Frankly, I never, even for one second, believed that there was any truth to the rumor. That was largely based on the fact that Capote never bothered to really make much of a statement one way or another in regards to the rumor and it was always my impression of him that he was a man whose word could not really be trusted when it came to his literary output, both published and what was supposedly always in the works, and that he would be perfectly happy for a rumor of that nature to circulate. For that reason, it's good to see that Charles Shields, author of last year's Harper Lee biography, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee seeks to finally kill that rumor.
Shields is convinced Lee is the author of her book. He interviewed the son-in-law of her now-dead editor, Tay Hohoff, who described the close friendship the two forged working together closely.

"Nelle would go to Tay's house just to visit," Shields said. "It would be utterly beneath Nelle's dignity to do something like that."

To write his nonfiction bestseller, "In Cold Blood," Capote asked Lee to accompany him to Kansas as his research assistant to investigate the 1959 murder of four members of a farming family.

"She had 150 single-typed pages of notes from their investigation of the murders," Shields said. "I realized that there were two authors in Kansas."

So Shields decided, "I have to right a wrong."
Wouldn't it be ironic if it were to turn out that Capote used much of Lee's writing for his own masterpiece, In Cold Blood and that the wrong rumor was the one discussed all these years?

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee is to be released in paperback on April 3 and will probably hit my TBR list shortly thereafter since I seem to have missed it in its hardback run.


  1. I haven't had a chance to read much more than I had last week, but I will admit that I finally got to a point that held my interest. Now that my daughter, son-in-law, and grands have left, I hope to get a bit more read in this, but there has been no time this weekend.

  2. I'm looking forward to hearing what you have to say about "Finn" because even though I'm only about 40 pages into the book I'm already finding it a little "rough."