When Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Go Set a Watchman,” died two years ago at 89, one story ended and another began. Her will was unsealed on Tuesday, but the document did little to clear up the questions surrounding a literary estate that is assumed to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Here is how The New York Times covered some of the key moments in her life and after her death.


Harper Lee, the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, spent most of her life out of the spotlight.

Her first and most beloved work tells the story of Atticus Finch, a righteous Southern lawyer who stands firm against racism in a small Alabama town, much like the one she grew up in.

Published in 1960, it sold more than 10 million copies, catapulting Ms. Lee to fame.

The novel was adapted into an Oscar-winning picture that added to her celebrity and fanned expectations for her next work.

It came, but more than fifty years later.

In 2015, Harper Collins announced the discovery of “Go Set a Watchman,” a lost manuscript dating back to1957.

That manuscript, a sequel – or some say prequel – to To Kill a Mockingbird, was released last year. It was met with bewilderment. Atticus, the beloved main character of Ms. Lee’s first novel, had aged and come to embrace racial bigotry.

Still, the book leapt to the top of the best-seller list despite the tepid reviews.

In one of her rare interviews with a Chicago radio show in 1964, Ms. Lee spoke about her literary ambition: “To describe a disappearing way of small town, middle class, southern life.”

“In other words,” Ms. Lee said, “All I want to be is the Jane Austen of South Alabama.”

Harper Lee, whose first novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” about racial injustice in a small Alabama town, sold more than 40 million copies, died at the age of 89.CreditCredit…Donald Uhrbrock/The LIFE Images Collection, via Getty Images