Friday, February 6, 2015

To Kill A Legacy?

It seems unexplainable that the author of a book that wins a Pulitzer Prize and who then sees her debut novel turned into a movie that stars the legendary Gregory Peck and wins three Oscars, would go decades without giving an interview or releasing any new books.  Even more bizarre is why would that same woman, Harper Lee, now 88, mysteriously decide to publish a 60-year-old manuscript more than half a century after her baby, To Kill A Mockingbird, was published?

She could have made millions if she had published other books.  As it is she and her estate will cash a fat check when Go Set A Watchman launches June 14 with two million advance copies in print and no doubt a Hollywood deal in the mix.  If she went this long not needing the money, not wanting the fame, not desiring to see her words publicly read, why would she want to have her book published now?

She suffered a stroke seven or eight years ago and is in an assisted living home.  The New York Times says “She can’t see or hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.”

Lee didn’t attend a press conference to announce the book’s upcoming release and her statements contained in a press release can’t be verified by the recluse.  Even the publisher, Harper Collins, acknowledges it has had no direct contact with Lee, as the deal was negotiated by her literary agent and lawyer.

Is this a hoax?

You have to wonder.

The book advances her original story by about 20 years.  It was written before Mockingbird but her original editor convinced her to take flashback passages and turn them into a book of their own.  It’s been established her original manuscript existed back then, but how do we know it is the same version being published now?

The author supposedly didn’t even realize the manuscript still existed.  It was found amongst her personal papers.  Really?  You write a book and forget where you put it, and, knowing it exists, don’t look for it for 55 years?

Ok, so let’s say the book is in fact written by her and approved by her, so now the question is: Should it be published?  Will it tarnish her in some way?

Nothing can take away from Mockingbird or the fact it’s sold 40 million copies and reportedly is one of the top 10 selling novels of the past decade.  The book's publication had great social significance and told a good story in a strong way.  The only damage so far to her legacy, is that she deprived the world from reading more of her books.

If she is going to release another book, shouldn’t it be edited and modernized in some way?  Does she have other manuscripts written but buried in an underwear drawer somewhere?  I am not sure what to make of these surprising events.  Maybe she should just remain a unique one-hit wonder and go out a champ – or maybe she will deliver a very good book that completes a story that is still relevant in today’s racially divisive America.

It would be great to hear what Lee has to say about all of this, but I suspect we may never really get to see and listen to a woman who made history with the publishing of this one spectacular book.  Ms. Lee, I don’t know why you waited so long to publish again, but the literary world eagerly awaits to see if what was rejected back then is a winner today.


2015 Book PR & Marketing Toolkit: All New

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect.  You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015

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