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A new book, but an old conspiracy theory

Author Truman Capote in 1955 (L) and author Lee Harper in 1960 (R).
PhotoQuest (L) | Hulton Archive (R) | Getty Images
Author Truman Capote in 1955 (L) and author Lee Harper in 1960 (R).

A second Harper Lee book is coming out and is likely to be a wild commercial success. But let's be honest…the success will be fueled, at least in part, by a conspiracy theory.

People will buy the book to see if they can determine if it's truly Harper Lee who is the great writer, or Truman Capote instead.


For those who may not be familiar with what's basically the Loch Ness monster of the literary world, here's the background.

Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," published in 1960, is considered one of the greatest novels of American literature, if not global literature. Over 30 million copies had been sold worldwide as of its 50th anniversary in 2010.

Truman Capote was a childhood friend of Lee's. In fact, one of the characters in "To Kill a Mockingbird" was based on him. And later in life, Lee helped Capote research his best seller, "In Cold Blood," published in 1966.

Lee wrote one book and ultimately became a recluse. Capote went on to write more books and had a storied career. So speculation eventually grew that Capote ghosted Lee's book. After all, if she was such a great writer why would she be one-and-done?

Rumors spread. There were denials.

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"Truman became very jealous, because Nelle Harper got a Pulitzer and he did not," said Alice C. Lee, Harper Lee's sister and public defender, in a 2010 documentary.

Nevertheless, the speculation continued.

So now comes a second book from Harper Lee: "Go Set a Watchman" in July. Apparently it was written before "To Kill a Mockingbird" but is a sequel. Will the second be as good as the first?


(Author's note: Read "To Kill a Mockingbird." Now read "In Cold Blood." No way the same person wrote both).