By David Granger / The Outlook
Harper Lee, the 88-year-old Alabama-born Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” announced Tuesday that her second novel will be released this summer – 55 years after the publication of her debut.
According to a New York Times report, “Go Set a Watchman” was completed in the 1950s and was actually written prior to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which is Lee’s reworking of “Watchman” from the perspective of Scout.
“Watchman” is, like “Mockingbird,” set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, and follows the Finch family.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has sold 40 million copies worldwide. Harper, which will publish “Go Set a Watchman,” plans to print two million copies.
While many have expected a second book from Lee, “Go Set a Watchman” is a surprise. For years, there has been talk among Lee experts and people in the Alexander City area of “The Reverend,” which Lee spent some nine months researching here in the 1980s. “The Reverend” was to be based on a series of killings in Nixburg tied to the Rev. Willy Joe Maxwell, known by many as “The Voodoo Preacher.”
Among the deaths tied to Maxwell were two ex-wives, Maxwell’s cousin and brother and his stepdaughter, 16-year-old Shirley Ann Ellington, found near Highway 9 with a tireless rim on her neck. At Ellington’s funeral at Alexander City’s House of Hutcheson Funeral Home (which has since burned), Robert Lewis Burns shot and killed Maxwell with a .25-caliber pistol.
Tom Radney Sr., the late Alexander City attorney, represented Maxwell, who was formally charged in three of the deaths. Radney also represented Burns in the death of Maxwell. Juries acquitted Maxwell all three times and Burns was found not guilty by reason of insanity in Maxwell’s death.
The news of the new Lee book surprised Radney’s granddaughter, Madolyn Price, who has long believed “The Reverend” would be the reclusive author’s next release.
“It all seems kind of fishy to me,” said Price. “Tonja Carter is Harper Lee’s attorney. I’ve met her and she told me that Miss Lee doesn’t remember anything about the Maxwell case or doing research in Alex City.
“Then she (Carter) finds (“Go Set a Watchman”) in a secret location. Well, I would love to know if that secret location contained any of Miss Lee’s notes about the Maxwell case. It just puts another plot twist into the whole thing.”