Agency ends probe into publication of Harper Lee’s new novel
MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) — Investigators in the state of Alabama looked into whether the recent deal to publish Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” sequel involved financial fraud, but they have closed the inquiry, a state official said Thursday.
Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg said his agency sent an investigator to speak with Lee at the request of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Borg said the department, which handles complaints of elder abuse, asked his investigators to look into the situation because of their expertise in financial matters.
“We closed the file. Let’s just say that she was able to answer questions we asked to our satisfaction from our point of view,” Borg said.
The surprise news that the 88-year-old author would publish a second book prompted speculation over whether she is capable of giving consent to the publication.
“We don’t make competency determinations. We’re not doctors,” Borg said. “But unless someone tells us to go back in, our file is closed on it.”
A high-ranking state official said the Department of Human Resources began an investigation into Lee’s treatment following news that her second novel would be released. The official wasn’t authorized to release the information publicly and spoke only on condition of anonymity. It’s unclear whether that investigation entails anything beyond the interview the commission employees did with Lee, who lives in an assisted-living facility in her south Alabama hometown of Monroeville, the inspiration for “Mockingbird.”
Barry Spear, a spokesman for the department, declined comment.
An arm of HarperCollins Publishers announced last month that a new Lee novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” will be released in July. The publisher said Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, who practiced in Lee’s sister’s local firm, found an unpublished manuscript of the book that was an early version of the story that would become “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
A call to Carter was not immediately returned.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is among the most beloved novels in history, with worldwide sales topping 40 million copies. It was released on July 11, 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into a 1962 movie of the same name.
Jay Reeves contributed to this report from Birmingham, Alabama.