Abandoned Harper Lee True-Crime Novel Finds New Life In Wake of 'Go Set a Watchman' News
Oh Harper Lee, you are so full of surprises. The New Yorker revealed there's a Harper Lee true-crime novel manuscript out there just existing in our world — and the lawyer involved in the crime's case hopes the author will choose to release it. In the wake of the mega-news that Lee will release her To Kill a Mockingbird sequel Go Set a Watchman despite her earlier claims that she would never publish another book, the family may have reason to hope.
It was Alexander City, Alabama layer Tom Radney who persuaded Lee to travel to his hometown and write about the series of six murder cases he was working on. And after hearing this story, you're going to see exactly why Lee took him up on that offer.
Radney represented Reverend Willie Maxwell each time he was accused of murder, for a total of five. The deaths started with Maxwell's wife, who was found dead in her car, allegedly beaten to death. Maxwell's brother came next, his body found on the side of a highway. Maxwell's second wife was also found dead in a car. Then his nephew, also in his car. Finally, the reverend's step daughter was found dead, not in her car, but under the front wheels of Maxwell's car. Maxwell had insurance policies under each of their names. And the reverend called Radney every time.
But that sixth death? That was Maxwell himself. His step-daughter's uncle shot him in the head at the girl's funeral, in front of a crowd of witnesses. Radney represented the uncle, too. I'm just wondering why there isn't already a book about this.
Radney was persistent, he passed along everything he had on the six murders to Lee, and Lee, in turn moved to Alexander City and spent several months interviewing essentially everyone who had ever crossed paths with Maxwell. Her book was to be called "The Reverend." Lee spoke about her work on the manuscript in a letter to Madison Jones, a writer who also researched the case in Alabama, according to The New Yorker.
I have accumulated enough rumor, fantasy, dreams, conjecture, and outright lies for a volume the length of the Old Testament ... I do believe that the Reverend Maxwell murdered at least five people, that his motive was greed, that he had an accomplice for two of the murders and an accessory for one. The person I believe to have been his accomplice/accessory is alive, well, and living not 150 miles from you ... I do not have enough hard facts about the actual crimes for a book-length account.
The New Yorker states that Radley and Lee stayed in touch for many years after this letter was written, and the lawyer presumed she continued to work on the book. Could this have been Lee's In Cold Blood, which she helped Capote write? I'm crossing all my fingers and toes that one day we'll get to see.