Tallahassee Journal

Publisher: Harper Lee is ‘happy as hell’ about new book

Publisher: Harper Lee is ‘happy as hell’ about new book

Was reclusive and ailing author Harper Lee an active participant in the astonishing decision to publish a long-awaited second novel? Responding to the doubts about that question, her publisher, HarperCollins, issued a statement Thursday quoting Lee as saying she is “happy as hell” about the response to her upcoming book, Go Set a Watchman.635587371864625549-AP-Books-Harper-Lee

Already No. 1 on Amazon, the book is to be published in July. The announcement that it existed, and would be published, caused widespread rejoicing among Lee’s many fans around the world and in the publishing industry. The statement, the publisher said, was relayed by Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter. She quotes Lee as saying she is “alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions (to) Watchman.”

HarperCollins stunned the world this week by announcing that Lee agreed to release her first book since her masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, came out in 1960. The manuscript for the new book, a sort-of sequel to Mockingbird, was recently rediscovered. No other book by Lee has ever been published, and Lee, now 88 and in poor health in an assisted living home near her hometown of Monroeville, Ala., has declined to speak publicly for decades.

Publisher Jonathan Burnham told the Associated Press he was “completely confident” Lee was fully involved in the decision to release the book. Even as questions have been raised about how cognizant Lee is, Burnham told USA TODAY that Lee “is in good health,” and the quotes attributed to her in the first press release came from her.

But he acknowledged that he had no direct contact with her, and communicated with her through Carter and literary agent Andrew Nurnberg. Meanwhile, the AP went to Monroeville to interview Lee’s friends and locals, and found some of them struggling to reconcile the Lee they saw recently at her sister’s funeral with the cheerful, articulate author quoted in the sensational announcement.