Harper Lee fans gather in Monroeville for ‘Go Set a Watchman’ release

Local News

MONROEVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — Signs all over Monroeville Tuesday welcomed crowds of people who wanted to celebrate the release of “Go Set a Watchman” in the town that inspired both of harper lee’s books, which is also the author’s own hometown.

From the cars to the clothes, people in Monroeville did their best to bring Maycomb to life.

A town that only existed in the pages of “To Kill a Mockingbird” now also exists in the pages of “Go Set a Watchman.” 

“It’s part of our heritage and we’re very proud of the fact Nell Harper Lee lives in this town,” said Stephanie Salter of the Mockingbird Players.

Crowds of people traveled from near and far, some from as far as eight hours away, to be in Lee’s hometown for the release of her second book.

“To me it’s a historical day,” said Summer George. “I love literature and to be a part of this in her town where she’s from it’s just an exciting day to experience all of this.”

The cover of the book could be seen all over town.

People did not wait even a second to find out what happened to Scout and Atticus and Maycomb itself.

Actors even held a marathon reading of the entire book in the courtroom that inspired a beloved classic, and put Monroeville on the literary map.

Harper Lee herself is a notoriously private person, known for turning down interviews and not wanting to speak in public.  Today WIAT spoke with people who have lived here their entire lives and know the author personally, the hometown hero friends known as Nelle.

According to George Jones, a midnight release and crowds of people waiting to get their hands on Lee’s second book is a far cry from the release of her first.

Jones lived in Monroeville when the local book store owner got the first shipment.

“She had never bought more than two copies of any book but the Bible, and word got out that she bought 50 and Mr. Lee came in and said Ernestine, I understand you bought 50 copies of my daughter’s book and he said I don’t think you’re going to sell them,” said Jones.

Of course those books all sold, plus millions more since then. It put Monroeville on the map and made Harper Lee famous, something those who know her say she didn’t want.

Robert Champion, Monroeville native said, “She’s not a recluse, she just wants her privacy.”

Both men who grew up in and still live in Monroeville have plenty of stories about Lee’s desire to be left alone.

“I was a police detective for 36 years and I’d run into her and the gist of the conversation was ‘how are you today Miss Lee?’ And she’d said, ‘I’m fine, what do you want,’” said Champion.

“My wife said the ladies on the adjoining fairway would look over and say ‘hey Scout!’ and my wife said Nell would say don’t that just make you want to throw up,” said Jones.

Copyright 2015 WIAT 42 News

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