To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee dies aged 89

Harper Lee, the author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' and 'Go Set a Watchman'
Cathal McGuigan

AMERICAN author Harper Lee has passed away at the age of 89.

The Mayor's Office of Monroeville, Alabama, confirmed the news to the Press Association.

Set in the Deep South in America during the 1930s, it details the life of tomboy Scout, real name Jean Louise Finch, and the events that unfold when her father, Atticus Finch, a Maycomb lawyer, is assigned to represent a local resident.

Born Nelle Harper Lee in 1926, she grew up in Monroeville, Alabama and was the youngest of four children.

Her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was a lawyer and it is reported that her character of Atticus Finch was loosely based on him.

Lee is most famous for writing the 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill A Mockingbird went on to become a classic and, apart from the Pulitzer, she was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Harper Lee was regarded as a reclusive author and it was thought that she would only publish one novel in her lifetime, until the release of Go Set a Watchman, last July. 

Her second novel followed the story characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus and Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch.

The long-awaited follow-up sold more than 105,000 copies on its first day.

Lee suffered a stroke in 2007 and with the release of her book last year, concerns were raised about the extent of her involvement in the project.

At the time, her agent was forced to respond to reports suggesting the 88-year-old was being taken advantage of over the publication of the book.

Authorities in her native Alabama closed their investigation into the issue, saying the reclusive writer had "made it quite clear" she wanted the book published.

There was criticism following the release of the novel that literary icon Atticus Finch had been portrayed as a bigot.

As staff at Waterstones in Belfast prepared for the launch of Go Set a Watchman, lead bookseller Paul Doran spoke of the public's affection for To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Mockingbird has always been one of the few books that the majority of our customers seem to agree upon. I can’t really think of another book that captures people’s imagination and affection in the same way,” he said.

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