Belfast Telegraph

Mockingbird author Harper Lee in mental health probe

By David Usborne

As the myriad fans of Harper Lee, the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, wait impatiently for the publication of a prequel to that novel this summer, a formal investigation has been opened by the state of Alabama into whether she may have been bullied into agreeing to its release.

The exact status of the inquiry, reported by The New York Times, has not been disclosed and there are conflicting indications from some of those who have been interviewed by state officials over whether Lee, who is 88 and in a nursing home, is in fact mentally alert or something far short of it.

The mere fact that two state agencies, the human resources department and the Alabama securities commission have become involved is certain to rekindle passionate debate about her mental state that began almost as soon as news of the publication of the HarperCollins prequel, Go Set a Watchman, first broke last month.

Sceptics quickly questioned why Lee, who had for over five decades been adamant about not publishing the book, would change her mind suddenly.

Among those who have been interviewed is Marja Mills, who wrote a book about living next door to Lee and her elder sister, Alice. She has given investigators a transcript of a conversation she had with Alice about her sister's medical condition.

"(Harper) doesn't know from one minute to the other what she's told anybody," Alice said, according to the transcript.

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