Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Harper Lee

What a wonderful documentary I saw recently on Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. This reclusive writer wrote only the one book which was to become a classic and made into a film with Gregory Peck and I still have my early copy. I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time during my last year at school. Not that I realized its influence until sixty four years later, when the narrator of the doc explained that Harper’s story was hewn out of an extraordinary experience in small town America, reflective of the times, and bearing a great influence –her father, a legal man working in a small, tightly-knit community. It was then that Atticus Finch, Boo and Scout, suddenly leapt out at me as I watched, overlaid with the characters who have appeared in my own books. As each author knows, there is more to the conscious and unconscious than meets the eye. Boo, Scout and Atticus - I saw them clearly for the first time six decades later. What a revelation! And now I return to my writing with a deeper understanding of the characters. What writer hasn’t had this light-bulb moment? For me it came very late in life and I’m so grateful for the heart-racingly vivid memory of my pals John C, Ashley W, and my dad William T, the chicken wire cage of a fancy dress outfit, and a hot summer’s day with a puddle of lemonade inadvertently spilt over the cover of a very special book.

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