The Alabama Department of Human Resources declared allegations that elderly novelist Harper Lee was manipulated into publishing a long-lost novel were unfounded and inaccurate, according to the Wall Street Journal. The findings are consistent with the conclusions of a similar investigation by the Alabama Securities Commission last month. HarperCollins Publishers is set to release “Go Set a Watchman,” the companion to Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1960 novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” on July 14.
Suspicions arose about the novel after several people close to Lee said the decision contradicted what Lee had told them about plans to publish a new novel. Lee is known for her privacy, almost never seeing visitors at the Monroeville, Alabama, nursing home where she lives and mostly communicating through her attorney, Tonja Carter, regarding the novel. This has led many to believe Carter had convinced Lee to publish the novel against her will. Some Monroeville locals said Lee, who is 88, suffers from dementia and was heavily affected by a stroke she suffered in 2007, but state interviews with Lee and a letter she penned herself refuted those claims.
Carter reportedly found the manuscript for “Go Set a Watchman,” which Lee wrote before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in either a lockbox or safe deposit box last year while going through Lee’s papers. It was wrapped in a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and apparently forgotten about by Lee herself. At the time of its writing, her publisher rejected the novel and asked her to write something about the main character, Scout Finch, when she was a child. Lee then wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird,” according to Harper editor Even Hugh Van Dusen.
“Go Set a Watchman” is being sold on Amazon on a preorder basis and is already ranked 18th on the online retailer’s best-seller list and is expected to rise to first upon its release. The novel will be published as it was found without edits.