Seven facts about Harper Lee

Mockingbird author ‘appeared’ in Truman Capote novels

Author of To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee, in her father’s law office while visiting her home town of Monroeville, Alabama. Photograph:  Donald Uhrbrock//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

Author of To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee, in her father’s law office while visiting her home town of Monroeville, Alabama. Photograph: Donald Uhrbrock//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

 

Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird became one of the most beloved books in US literary history. Here are seven facts about Lee, who died at the age of 89:

  • She went by Harper, her middle name, because she was afraid her first name, Nelle, would be mispronounced as “Nellie,” not “Nell.”
  • Lee based the To Kill a Mockingbird character Dill on childhood friend and fellow writer Truman Capote, who in turn used her as the basis for Idabel Tompkins, a character in his Other Voices, Other Rooms.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize the following year, but Conrad Richter’s The Waters of Kronos beat her out for the US National Book Award.
  • Lee’s fans were stunned to learn 55 years after publication of the novel of a long-stashed manuscript written before “To Kill a Mockingbird” and even more stunned that Atticus, the hero of the first book, was portrayed as a segregationist in “Go Set a Watchman.” Atticus was based on Lee’s father.
  • Lee and actor Gregory Peck became friends during the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird. She remained close to his family and Peck’s grandson, Harper Peck Voll, is named for her.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird created a cottage industry in her hometown, Monroeville, Alabama, with a museum dedicated to it, although Lee filed a lawsuit claiming it was selling unlicensed merchandise, such as Mockingbird beverage coasters.
  • Actresses Sandra Bullock (Infamous in 2006) and Catherine Keener (Capote in 2005) portrayed Lee in movies about the writing of Capote’s In Cold Blood.