All geared up for Lee's new book

Actress Mary Badham (above, with Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, To Kill A Mockingbird) will read from the book next month.
Actress Mary Badham (above, with Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, To Kill A Mockingbird) will read from the book next month.PHOTO: UIP

New York - Mary Badham, who played the young Scout in the 1962 movie adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, will give voice to that character again to celebrate the publication of Lee's second novel, Go Set A Watchman.

Badham will appear at the 92nd Street Y's Poetry Center in Manhattan on July 14, when the new book goes on sale. She will read from To Kill A Mockingbird, which is narrated by Scout and set in Depression-era Alabama, and Go Set A Watchman, which features Scout 20 years later, returning home from New York.

She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her performance and developed a close friendship with Gregory Peck, who played lawyer Atticus Finch, Scout's father.

"At age 10, I wasn't aware of the impact Mockingbird had at the time, or the impact the film would have later, but it has been a special part of my life ever since," Badham said in a statement.

"Now I am really excited about Watchman and being able to share it with Miss Nelle's loyal and passionate fans," she added, using the name that family and friends call Lee.

The event, which will be streamed at 92Y.org/harperlee, is one of dozens of Watchman celebrations taking place at bookstores, theatres and libraries across the country on July 14 to mark the publication of another book by one of the United States' most celebrated and enigmatic authors.

The release of Go Set A Watchman, more than 50 years after Lee was propelled to fame by the success of To Kill A Mockingbird, promises to be one of the biggest publishing events of the decade.

The novel shot to the top of bestseller lists when it was announced last February by HarperCollins, even as readers and scholars questioned why Lee waited so long to publish a book she had written and set aside nearly 60 years ago.

According to her publisher, the manuscript, which Lee wrote before To Kill A Mockingbird, was believed to be lost and was rediscovered last autumn.

The novel has sold steadily since its release was announced.

Go Set A Watchman is the most pre- ordered book in HarperCollins' history and is the most pre-ordered print title of this year on Amazon. HarperCollins has announced a first printing of two million copies.

But because Lee, who is 89 and famously private, will not be doing any publicity or bookstore appearances, booksellers are finding creative ways to draw in customers and capitalise on the widespread anticipation, with read-a- thons, midnight openings, film screenings, Southern food and discussion groups.

"Everyone is curious as to whether it's going to be anything like To Kill A Mockingbird because that's such a part of our culture," said Ms Liza Bernard, co-owner of Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, which will serve Mockingbird-inspired snacks, such as tea cakes and lemonade, on July 14.

"I'm curious to see if it stands up to it, is better or doesn't hold a candle to it."

Bookstores across the country are planning to host conversations about the novel, which has already generated vigorous debate as readers and fans question whether it will live up to Lee's original masterpiece.

Barnes & Noble will host read-a-thons of To Kill A Mockingbird on July 13 and will open its stores at 7am the next day. Those who arrive early to buy Watchman will get a free cup of coffee.

New York Times

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'All geared up for Lee's new book'. Print Edition | Subscribe