The AP reported on Tuesday that HarperCollins will issue Harper Lee’s second novel, GO SET A WATCHMAN, on July 14, with a planned North American first printing of 2 million copies. The book is “essentially a sequel” to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, though it was written first. The 304-page book was “rediscovered last fall.”
The 88-year-old Lee says in a statement: “In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called ‘Go Set a Watchman.’ 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.”
Lee has spoken of Watchman before, but it was considered lost until last fall, when Carter found the manuscript in a “secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.'” The book will be published in the UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) by Heinemann, with Andrew Nurnberg of Andrew Nurnberg Associates representing the rights for Carter.
The story is set in Maycomb, Alabama, during the mid-1950s, “and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later.” The publisher says: “Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”
Michael Morrison, who negotiated the deal for Harper, says in the announcement, “I, along with millions of others around the world, always wished that Harper Lee had written another book. And what a brilliant book this is. I love Go Set a Watchman, and know that this masterpiece will be revered for generations to come.”