Sorry, Messrs Twain, Capote, Salinger and Hawthorne – you were pipped at the post by an unassuming girl from Alabama - Nelle Harper Lee.
Harper Lee has effectively vanished. She never published another novel and is most certainly not to be seen reminiscing about her struggle with whatever on Oprah. To all intents and purposes she has disappeared off the face of the earth. However, she is still alive and well. Now 84 she lives in the town in which she was born, Monroeville, Alabama.
The father, Atticus Finch is modelled on her own, AC Lee and the narrator of the novel – the young and impressionable Scout is thought to be based on Harper Lee (or Nelle, her first name and as she is known to friends) herself.
As interesting is the character Dill in the novel who – in real life – grew up to be none other than Truman Capote (pictured left as a child). Amazing that two such world renowned authors – and so different both in their writing and their lives – could have been best friends as children.
Capote helped Lee to edit M’bird and unforgivably (and no doubt in a fit of pique at the novel’s success while his own, In Cold Blood, remained partly written) never put people right when they suggested to him that he was the novel’s co-author.
It can only be hoped that in a retirement home in Monroeville, Alabama, there is a quietly satisfied old lady, happy that her one and only novel is still spreading its message of tolerance and humanity to readers the world over.
Additional Image Credits
Gregory Peck and Brock Peters
Truman Capote as a boy