'To Kill A Mockingbird' author Harper Lee dies

Something on a 'one-book wonder' until recently, Harper Lee defined the racial tensions of the American South with her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1961 novel To Kill a Mockingbird

19 February 2016, 5:11pm
Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007
Lee being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, November 5, 2007
American author Harper Lee, famous for her novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died. She was 89. 

Considered a 'one-book wonder' until the recent – and ethically disputed – publication of Go Set a Watchman last year, Lee is often credited with writing the definitive characterisation of the racial tension in the American 'Deep South' of the 1930s, and with creating one of the most enduring figures of 20th century American literature in the upright lawyer Atticus Finch. 

Winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, To Kill a Mockingbird was also made into a film starring Gregory Peck just a year later – an adaptation which was equally decorated by audiences and critics and which also enjoyed Lee's own blessing. 

Lee became something of a recluse following the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, failing to complete any of the books she was working on, and refusing to grant any interviews. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, and was subsequently received the Medal of Arts in 2010. 

Go Set a Watchman, a sequel of sorts to 'Mockingbird' was published in 2015 to some controversy. Beyond the fact that it divided critics – who suspected that the novel was little more than a first draft, in the process tarnishing the image of Atticus Finch by depicting him as a racist in his dotage – questions were also raised as to whether Lee would have been lucid enough to authorise its publication, since she was said to be in declining health at the time.