Waiting on ‘Watchman’ in Monroeville
Harper Lee’s hometown to celebrate the release of Go Set a Watchman at midnight.
We arrived in Monroeville, Alabama, late Sunday night and checked into the Country Inn & Suites on Hwy. 21. This is the highway that turns into Alabama Avenue and heads straight into downtown and Harper Lee’s Maycomb. Things were still relatively quiet on Monday afternoon, but tents were going up on the courthouse lawn, Sweet Tooth Bakery & Deli on the square nearly sold out of lunch, and Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe was taking orders for books available as soon as the clock strikes midnight.
The Court House Cafe decided to shut down for vacation this week and Monroe County Heritage Museum is closed on Mondays, but otherwise residents of Monroeville are gearing up for the book’s release and a full day of events on July 14. The festivities start at Ol’ Curiosities at midnight, when locals, media and tourists like us can pick up their first-edition books along with a certificate of authenticity. That’s about as close as you can get to a signed copy by Harper Lee here. (We ordered three.)
The reclusive author who now lives in an assisted living home is not expected to venture out tonight — in fact we’re told security has been guarding her facility all day — but signs in shop windows throughout town proclaim “We love Harper Lee” and “Can’t wait to read Watchman.”
We did meet our first celebrity of the week, Gregory Peck impersonator Eric Richardson out by the hotel pool, and he’s expected to perform at tonight’s launch party. He’s also been defending Atticus Finch’s honor in interviews all day after The New York Times review that claims the beloved character was a racist. Richardson’s response? “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
The rest of the day was spent exploring the streets around downtown, with a quick look at the house on Claiborne Street said to be the inspiration for Boo Radley’s in To Kill a Mockingbird, and dinner at Radley’s Fountain Grille. The restaurant was having a busy night for a Monday to say the least, and most diners were planning to attend the launch party.
Tomorrow’s schedule starts with a 6 a.m. marathon reading of Watchman at the Old Courthouse, followed by walking tours, storytelling at the library, a 1 p.m. press conference, second marathon reading at 2 p.m., dedication of a historic downtown marker and mint juleps on the courthouse lawn at 4 p.m.
We’ll be attending as many of the festivities as possible before heading back home on Wednesday, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates from the literary capital of Alabama and the literary event of the year.