Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New Harper Lee book brings personal history to life

I simply cannot wait for Nelle Harper Lee's book, "Go Set a Watchman" to be released July 14.  I ordered an advanced copy long ago.  I have two special reasons to be so anxious to read this long-forgotten book by Harper Lee.

My maternal grandfather, the late Luther Latham of Eupora, was a small-town lawyer, former state senator from Webster County.  He died at age 51 while campaigning for the Fifth Judicial Judgeship in 1938. That was the year my mother graduated from high school with plans for being a lawyer. Her brother, Jim, was already at the University of Mississippi in law school.  Their lives changed.

Mama always said, if you want to know what your grandaddy Latham was like, just watch "To Kill a Mockingbird."  I did many times.  The similarities were amazing.

The Honorable Senator Luther Latham

They were both criminal lawyers in a small town—both wore their thick, black hair combed back. My mother even wore a "Buster Brown" haircut like Scout in the movie.  But the most important similarity was the way they dealt with their fellow man.

"We leaned on him.  He was a strong, vigorous man. When in the future, we are faced with this and that momentous problem, instinctively we are going to say:  "Ask Luther about it."  And then we are going to remember that Luther is not here.    .The last fifteen years have witnessed a great change for the better in Webster County. The improvements our people have made educationally, economically, and morally are obvious.  And much of this good work can be attributed to Luther Latham." From an editorial in the Webster Progress Times.

"He was a man of honor and personal integrity.  All of his dealings with his fellowman were based upon his idea of right and justice, of ethics and forbearance."  From obituary in Webster Progress Times.  
I rest my case.

But in case you aren't familiar with Lee's soon-to-be released book, "Go Set A Watchman" here is the scoop.

"It was written before Lee's only published novel To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: "For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."[1] It alludes to Scout's view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass ("watchman") of Maycomb."

This novel takes place when Scout is a grown woman, 20 years older than she was in Mockingbird.  She leaves New York to visit her father in Macomb and tries to sort our her feeling about her hometown.

The movie-like truth about this book is that the manuscript was lost for all these years. It was written in the 1950s before she wrote Mockingbird. At the advice of her publisher, she put it away and wrote a book about Scout's childhood (Mockingbird).  It was discovered by her lawyer in 2014.


Last night I watched the movie "Infamous" about the years of research that Truman Capote did leading up to his best-selling true crime non-fiction book "In Cold Blood."  He took his childhood friend Nell Harper Lee along to help with research and documentation.  Their conversations were priceless.  You can see how little Dill's character in the movie could have been based on Capote.

I can't wait...


  1. This is all so very interesting. We have a nephew named Atticus.