Mockingbird

A Portrait of Harper Lee

Charles J. Shields

Henry Holt and Co.

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The colorful life of the remarkable woman who created To Kill a Mockingbird—the classic that became a touchstone for generations of Americans

To Kill a Mockingbird, the twentieth-century’s most widely read American novel, has sold thirty million copies and still sells a million yearly. Yet despite the book’s perennial popularity, its creator, Harper Lee has become a somewhat mysterious figure. Now, after years of research, Charles J. Shields has brought to life the warmhearted, high-spirited, and occasionally hardheaded woman who gave us two of American literature’s most unforgettable characters—Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout—and who contributed to the success of her lifelong friend Truman Capote’s masterpiece, In Cold Blood.

At the center of Shields’s lively book is the story of Lee’s struggle to create her famous novel. But her life contains many other highlights as well: her girlhood as a tomboy in overalls in tiny Monroeville, Alabama; the murder trial that made her beloved father’s reputation and inspired her great work; her journey to Kansas as Capote’s ally and research assistant to help report the story of the Clutter murders; the surrogate family she found in New York City.

Drawing on six hundred interviews and much new information, Mockingbird is the first book ever written about Harper Lee. Highly entertaining, filled with humor and heart, this is an evocative portrait of a writer, her dream, and the place and people whom she made immortal.

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Book Excerpts

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Introduction
“As a reader I loathe Introductions,” Nelle Harper Lee once wrote. But, with apologies to the subject, I must say that one is necessary for this book, the first ever about the woman who gave the world To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most influential pieces of fiction produced in the United States. In a “Survey of Lifetime Reading Habits” conducted by the Book-of-the-Month Club in 1991, researchers found that To Kill a Mockingbird ranked second only to the Bible “as making a difference in people’s lives.” Forty-six years after its publication, the novel still draws almost a million

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Reviews

Praise for Mockingbird

“Harper Lee caught the beauty of America with To Kill a Mockingbird, but has remained something of a mystery ever since. Charles J. Shields’s portrait of her, Mockingbird, shows us a quietly reclusive, down-to-earth woman with an enormous gift and documents her struggle to live with that gift for the rest of her life. Shields evocation of both the woman and her beautiful, sleepy, and smoldering South are pitch perfect.”—Anne River Siddons, author of Sweetwater Creek and other books

“Harper Lee’s intense personal privacy sets daunting limitations for a biographer, but Charles Shields has ingeniously recovered the feel of her childhood world of Monroeville, Alabama, and the small-town Southern customs and vivid personalities that shaped her prickly independence. Detailed memories of Lee’s classmates and friends are interwoven with dramatic recreations of key events and stories of her friendships and literary collaborations, all fleshing out the general narrative of her development as a novelist. Close attention to her friendship with Truman Capote and the conditions of the writing and then the filming of To Kill a Mockingbird offer special fascination.”—Louise Westling, Professor of English, University of Oregon, author of Sacred Groves and Ravaged Gardens: The Fiction of Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, and Flannery O’Connor

“If there is a great American novel, certainly To Kill a Mockingbird is it. But, for all of us who love it, its author has always been an enigma. Did Harper Lee really write this classic? And if she did, why didn’t she ever write another book? And who is Harper Lee, anyway? Finally, a writer has done the necessary research to reveal the surprising answers. To every To Kill a Mockingbird reader, I send this message: The story isn’t over. There’s so much more to come, and you’ll find it all in Charles Shields’ delightful and insightful Mockingbird.”—Homer Hickam, author of Rocket Boys






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About the Author

Charles J. Shields

Charles J. Shields is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, the highly acclaimed, bestselling biography of Harper Lee, and I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). He grew up in the Midwest and taught in a rural school in central Illinois for several years. He has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of nonfiction books for young people. He and his wife live near Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charles J. Shields

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Available Formats and Book Details

Mockingbird
A Portrait of Harper Lee
Charles J. Shields

Award

Quill Award - Nominee

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Henry Holt and Co.
April 2007
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429900911
ISBN10: 1429900911
352 pages
$9.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Henry Holt and Co.
Holt Paperbacks
April 2007
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780805083194
ISBN10: 0805083197
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages, Includes eight pages of pictures
$17.99
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Henry Holt and Co.

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