A series of screams went up around the office

A novel that Harper Lee wrote in the mid-50s, before To Kill a Mockingbird, is going to be published next summer. The Guardian reports that there is much excitement.

UK and Commonwealth rights to the book were acquired by Penguin Random House. The publisher’s announcement on Tuesday was accompanied by a new photo of Lee, climbing out of a car and smiling. The news has been kept secret from all but a handful of staff at the publisher, and publicity director Charlotte Bush said that when it was revealed this afternoon, a series of screams went up around the office.

Well you know how people in publishing are. They’re screamers.

At Foyles booksellers in London, Jonathan Ruppin described the news as being “as big as it gets for new fiction”. “We can close the book on the bestselling novel of 2015 right now. At Foyles today, we’re absolutely fizzing with excitement and frenzied speculation: it’s the only topic of conversation,” said the bookseller, adding that even though To Kill a Mockingbird has long been acknowledged as a classic, it “is a book that still surprises new readers with its power. Its story is arresting and profound, its characters vivid and entirely convincing, so the prospect of a follow-up, after all these years, is giddyingly thrilling”.

I’m still calm about it. I can tell you one thing though – it won’t be anything like as bad as the last piece of fiction (or writing of any kind) that J D Salinger published. That was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever read. Literally that: embarrassing. It was basically his absurd fantasy life, spread out in huge detail, but by some strange accident published in the New Yorker. Don’t ever publish your fantasy life in the New Yorker.

Harper Lee’s new-old novel won’t be that bad.


  1. Anne Fenwick says

    Sorry to be cynical, but the publishers and booksellers don’t give a toss whether it’s good or not. They’re just excited about the easy profit they’re going to make regardless.

  2. says

    I think the fact that she wrote it very soon after finishing To Kill a Mockingbird could mean that it will be very good, indeed. It seems that she had a clear vision of how she wanted to tell Scout’s story, and this was the second half of that vision.

  3. hyphenman says

    @MrFancyPants No. 2

    This is the first novel (that we know of) that Lee wrote. The book was rejected by her editor who told her to reset the story in the protagonists childhood rather than telling the story as a reminiscence.

    I fear this will go the way of Margaret Mitchel’s other book.


  4. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    J.D. Salinger hit his height with Nine Stories, with everything after that being another step down the rabbithole of WTF. Franny and Zooey was alright until it turned into a David Lynch movie about Eastern philosophy/religion… Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters was odd, but occasionally amusing… and Seymour: An Introduction was garbage.

  5. says

    Dr Ian Patterson at Cambridge University was underwhelmed by the news… …“It will doubtless be eagerly read by fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, but that’s a soggy sentimental liberal novel if ever there was one.”

    I don’t like this guy.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    I’m not getting my hopes up. After TKAM was released, there was massive demand for another Harper Lee book. The fact that she already had this one in the can and the decision was made not to release it then tells me it’s probably pretty awful.

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