Law in Popular Culture

Famed author of 'Mockingbird' says she never OK'd biography by journalist who moved next door


Cover image from Penguin Press.

Fiercely protective of her privacy, the 88-year-old author of one of the most famous trial novels ever published says she never willingly cooperated with a journalist who moved next door to her Monroeville, Alabama, home in 2004.

Nonetheless, the journalist wrote a book about Harper Lee and her older sister, Alice, a practicing lawyer, that is now about to be published. In a Monday letter, the famed author of To Kill a Mockingbird says she didn’t agree to talk with journalist Marja Mills for this purpose and was “hurt, angry and saddened” and made a point of being elsewhere once she found out about Mills’ plan to write The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, the Associated Press reports.

“Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood,” said Harper Lee in the letter.

Also at issue is a written 2011 statement signed by Alice Lee that Mills says “makes clear that Nelle Harper Lee and Alice gave me their blessing,” the news agency reports. Harper Lee says her sister was then 100 years old; Mills points out that Alice Lee was a practicing lawyer at the time.

Penguin Press said Tuesday that it is proud to be the publisher of Mills’ book.

An Entertainment Weekly article includes a copy of the Monday letter from Lee, and the Arts Beat page of the New York Times (reg. req.) also has a story.

Related coverage: “Still Practicing at 100, ‘Miss Alice’ Talks of Harper Lee and Working in Their Dad’s Law Firm” “Famed ‘Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee settles suit against hometown museum”

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