Postcard from Monroeville
Photos, videos and memories from the release of Go Set a Watchman in Harper Lee’s Alabama hometown.
We arrived in Monroeville, Alabama — located about an hour and a half from Mobile — on the evening of July 12, two days before the release of Go Set a Watchman. Downtown Monroeville was quiet on Monday, but a billboard on Hwy. 21 leading into downtown and signs in shop windows thanked Harper Lee and expressed excitement about the book’s release. A full schedule of events was on the agenda for release day, Tuesday, July 14, including talks at the public library with her friends and neighbors, a marathon reading of the book inside the old courthouse and the unveiling of a new historic marker.
Monroeville historical marker with Lee Motor Co., where Harper Lee purchased her trademark Buick, in the background.
Birdhouses can be found scattered around downtown, including this one on the courthouse lawn.
Town bookstore Ol’ Curiosities was abuzz on Monday as locals and tourists stopped in to order their first-edition copies, complete with a certificate of authenticity, and a tent went up outside for that evening’s midnight launch party. As the clock approached 12, several hundred people lined up outside the front porch of the shop and waited more than two hours to receive their books. According to news reports, the shop ordered more than 10,000 copies of the book for a town with about 6,000 people, and we heard phone orders coming in from around the country while we purchased ours.
Midnight launch party at Ol’ Curiosities & Book Shoppe, where fans by the hundreds purchased first editions with a certificate of authenticity.
Editor Erin Z. Bass with Atticus Finch/Gregory Peck impersonator Eric Richardson.
Comparing the real-life Atticus Finch to Gregory Peck in a display at the Monroe County Heritage Museum.
Old Monroe County Courthouse where a marathon reading (below) of Go Set a Watchman was held.
While longtime friend Wayne Flynt reported that Harper Lee herself was “tickled” by all the excitement and foreign media in town (our own friend Cerith Mathias who works with the BBC in Wales joined us), she did not make an appearance during the festivities. We did hear that Lee attended a luncheon at the Prop & Gavel downtown about two weeks ago, where she was first shown the book and asked to sign a copy for Sotheby’s.
Harper Lee childhood friend George Jones talks about the real Boo Radley and his memories of Lee and Truman Capote at the public library.
Radley’s Fountain Grille was packed every night with locals and foreign press for the Watchman release.
Site of the former Lee and Faulk (Capote) houses where the two friends met. All that remains is a stone wall Capote used to do handstands on next to Mel’s Dairy Dream.
Atticus Finch himself made an appearance over the two days as Gregory Peck impersonator Eric Richardson from Baltimore. He was around for photo opps during the launch party and courthouse readings. The Watchman celebration ended with mint juleps, served in silver cups etched with an image of the courthouse, on the lawn. We headed home on Wednesday morning with books in hand and plenty of reading to do for a forthcoming review.
All photos and video by Deep South.