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Harper Lee to publish new novel in July

To_Kill_a_MockingbirdSome novelists are highly prolific, publishing upward of two or three books each year (see, e.g., Oates, Joyce Carol). Others publish sparingly, with only one or two books to their name. It is rare, however, for a living author with only one book to her credit to agree to publish a sophomore release more than a half-century after her first book won a Pulitzer Prize.

Rare, but after today, not unheard of.

According to a statement, Harper Lee, author of the American classic To Kill a Mockingbird, is set to release a follow-up novel this July with publisher Harper. Titled Go Set a Watchman, the novel features Scout, the child protagonist of the earlier book, in adulthood. Apparently finished earlier than To Kill a Mockingbird, the “new” novel has been languishing unseen since before Lee became a household name after publishing her debut in 1960.

From an Associated Press story:

“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman,” the 88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by Harper. “It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became To Kill a Mockingbird) from the point of view of the young Scout.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

Harper obviously has high hopes for the book: the initial print run is apparently 2 million copies.

Reaction to the news might best be summed up by a tweet this morning from Mark Medley, books editor at The Globe and Mail: