How I found the Harper Lee manuscript

How I found the Harper Lee manuscript
Credit: Scooter McCrae

In the time since it was announced that “Watchman” was found and Harper Lee — or Nelle, her first name, used by family and friends — decided to have it published, much has been said about how it was found, who found it, who knew of its existence, and when it was first found. As Nelle’s estate trustee, lawyer and friend, I would like to tell the full story, fill in any blanks that may be in people’s minds, and provide a historical context for those interested in how this book went from lost to being found.

The story begins in June 2011 when Sam Pinkus, who was Nelle’s literary agent at the time, contacted her sister, Alice, and asked that he be allowed to examine and inventory Nelle’s assets. Alice, who has since died, was an attorney and until the last few years of her life handled most business matters for Nelle, who lives in an assisted-living facility. Mr. Pinkus was particularly interested in having the original manuscript for “To Kill a Mockingbird” examined and appraised. He said he needed to open Nelle’s safe-deposit box, where it was assumed the manuscript was held.

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