The Paris Review

The Hidden Harper Lee

Harper Lee. Photo: Michael Brown. © Michael Brown.

At the end of the profile that Harper Lee wrote of Truman Capote when he published In Cold Blood, she speculated that “Kansans will spend the rest of their days at the tantalizing game of discovering Truman.” It was an odd claim; Capote loved publicity so much that even before he died, there was little left to discover about his time in Kansas, or anywhere else. Lee, by contrast, was so elusive that even her mysteries have mysteries: not only what she wrote, but how; not only when she stopped, but why.

For seventeen years after the publication of , readers wondered what Lee would write next. In the years during and after she knocked on doors around Lake Martin, some knew exactly what but wondered when. Many people knew the title. One woman claimed to have seen a. An English professor at the University of Alabama heard from Lee’s old friend Jim McMillan that she had written the whole book but her publisher had rejected it because it was “too sensitive a subject.” McMillan’s daughter had heard it was all written, too, but locked away in a trunk, and would not be published until after Lee died.

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