HarperCollins to Publish 2m Copies of New Harper Lee Novel

In News by Dennis Abrams

Harper Lee

Harper Lee

HarperCollins will publish 2 million copies of “Go Set a Watchman,” a novel Harper Lee wrote in the 1950s and then “put aside.” It will come out on July 14.

By Dennis Abrams

The Associated Press reports that publisher HarperCollins has announced that Go Set a Watchman, a novel that Harper Lee completed in the 1950s and then “put aside” will be released on July 14.

“Rediscovered” last fall, Go Set a Watchman is in essence a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize winning best-selling beloved classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, although it was actually written first. It will be only her second novel to be published.

Harper is planning a first print run of two million copies.

The 88 year old Lee issued a statement through her publisher:

“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.”

The financial terms of the deal have not been announced. The AP reported that the deal was negotiated between Carter and the head of Harper’s parent company, HarperCollins Publishers. “Watchman” will be published in the UK by William Heinemann, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

According to publisher Harper, Carter discovered the manuscript at a “secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.” The new book is, like Mockingbird, set in Maycomb, during the mid 1950s, 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus,” the publisher’s announcement reads. “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.”

“This is a remarkable literary event,” Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham said in a statement. “The existence of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ was unknown until recently, and its discovery is an extraordinary gift to the many readers and fans of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”

The book will be available in both print and ebook editions.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.