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9 Reasons Why We Love Harper Lee

Some fascinating facts about the author whose second novel Go Set a Watchman was published 55 years after her hugely successful and acclaimed debut To Kill a Mockingbird.

1. When journalists used to approach her for an interview, her standard response was “Not just no, but hell no”.

2. 750,000 copies of To Kill a Mockingbird are sold a year. In one typical six-month period alone she earned $1,688,064.68 in royalties.

3. She used to play the slot machines in a casino on a Native American reservation where no-one knew who she was.

4. Her best friend, at age 5, was Truman Parsons, whom she defended from bullies. He changed his name to Truman Capote and they remained lifelong friends.

5. She smoked a pipe at university.

6. As a child her most treasured possession was an Underwoods typewriter given to her and Truman by her father. They dragged it everywhere and wrote stories on it.

7. She worked as a ticket agent for Eastern Airlines and later at the British Overseas Air Corporation.

8. To Kill a Mockingbird was only written because some friends, the Browns, proposed, as a Christmas present in 1956, that they pay her living expenses for a year so she could write full time.

9. She wrote to Spencer Tracy inviting him to consider the role of Atticus Finch in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. He was tied into another film and couldn’t do it.

Harper Lee died on 19 February 2016 at the age of 89. Read an obituary from BBC News.

Go Set a Watchman was broadcast on Radio 4 in September 2015.