Phillip Thompson

Crime Fiction writer

I’m not sure I want to read the newly released Harper Lee novel, Go Set A Watchman, but not because of the apparent racial overtones in the newly discovered book. Rather, I’m not sure I want to read anything that serves as a follow-up to what is arguably the best American novel ever written.

There’s a reason To Kill A Mockingbird go-set-a-watchmanhas sold 30 million copies, has been read by seemingly every American who entered the public school system in the last 50 years, and made millions of women (and probably some men, too) hold out for a husband until they found one like Atticus Finch. The reason(s): every word was pitch perfect, the characters were beautiful (yes, even Boo Radley), and the charm inescapable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read the book — and loved it every time. I even wanted to name my daughter Scout (but Demi Moore beat me to it, I guess). And as idealized as it was for its time, its depiction of small-town Southern places rang true for me.

I always admired Harper Lee’s style. She wrote (it seemed) one book, won the Pulitzer and the adoration of the nation, then dropped the mic and left the stage. And annoyed the living hell out of Truman Capote in the process. Yeah, #winning.

So when rumors started flying that another Lee novel existed, I ignored the chatter, or maybe went into denial. Either way, now the rumors are true. But the joy, for me, isn’t there.

I think I’d just rather remember Scout, Jem, Dill and Atticus as they were, when Ms. Lee caught lightning in a bottle and captured our imagination for all time.

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