Best Known For
Harper Lee is best known for writing the Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)—her one and only published novel.
Harper Lee - Mini Biography (3:04)
William Faulkner - Mini Bio (3:53)
Truman Capote - Mini Bio (3:32)
In 1961, Harper Lee became the only author to win the Pulitzer Prize for her first and only novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Gregory Peck starred as Atticus Finch in the film adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird." Peck's character was voted the greatest movie hero of all time.
A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, William Faulkner was the poet-novelist of Mississippi. His novels "The Sound and the Fury," "As I Lay Dying," and "Light in August" all reflect the history and culture of the American South.
Known as the originator of the true-crime novel, Truman Capote was both a renowned author as well as a controversial celebrity. His non-fiction novel, "In Cold Blood," became an international best-seller.
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She also befriended Broadway composer and lyricist Michael Martin Brown and his wife Joy.
In 1956, the Browns gave Lee an impressive Christmas present—to support her for a year so that she could write full time. She quit her job and devoted herself to her craft. The Browns also helped her find an agent, Maurice Crain. He, in turn, was able to get the publishing firm interested in her first novel, which was first titled Go Set a Watchman, then Atticus,
and later To Kill a Mockingbird. Working with editor Tay Hohoff, Lee finished the manuscript in 1959.
Later that year, Lee joined forces with old friend Truman Capote to assist him with an article he was writing for The New Yorker. Capote was writing about the impact of the murder of four members of the Clutter family on their small Kansas farming community. The two traveled to Kansas to interview townspeople, friends and family of the deceased, and the investigators working to solve the crime. Serving as his research assistant, Lee helped with the interviews, eventually winning over some of the locals with her easy-going, unpretentious manner. Truman, with his flamboyant personality and style, also had a hard time initially getting himself into his subjects' good graces.
During their time in Kansas, the Clutters' suspected killers, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, were caught in Las Vegas and brought back for questioning. Lee and Capote got a chance to interview the suspects not long after their arraignment in January 1960. Soon after, Lee and Capote returned to New York. She worked on the galleys for her forthcoming first novel while he started working on his article, which would evolve into the nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. The pair returned to Kansas in March for the murder trial. Later that spring, Lee gave Capote all of her notes on the crime, the victims, the killers, the local communities and much more.
Soon Lee was engrossed in her literary success story. In July 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was published and picked up by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Literary Guild. A condensed version of the story appeared in Reader's Digest magazine. The work's central character, a young girl nicknamed Scout, was not unlike Lee in her youth. In one of the book's major plotlines, Scout and her brother Jem and their friend Dill explore their fascination with a mysterious and somewhat infamous neighborhood character named Boo Radley.
But the work was more than a coming-of-age story, however. Another part of the novel reflected racial prejudices in the South. Their attorney father, Atticus Finch, tries to help a black man who has been charged with raping a white woman to get a fair trial and to prevent him from being lynched by angry whites in a small town.
The following year, To Kill a Mockingbird won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and several other literary awards. Horton Foote wrote a screenplay based on the book and used the same title for the 1962 film adaptation. Lee visited the set during filming and did a lot of interviews to support the film.
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