Tonja Carter, Harper Lee’s lawyer, has suggested that there may be the manuscript of a third novel among the writer’s secured papers.
The disclosure came in an op-ed column Monday in the Wall Street Journal and adds to the swirling questions about the discovery and publication of her new book “To Set A Watchman,’’ which features many of the same characters as her landmark novel “To Kill A Mockingbird,’’ but takes place two decades later.
At the conclusion of the piece, Carter, who is credited with discovering the “Watchman’’ manuscript in Lee’s safe-deposit box, writes that there are other papers in the container, leaving open the possibility that “as early correspondence indicates’’ there may be “a third book bridging the two.’’ She goes on to say that in the coming months “at Nelle’s direction’’ experts will be invited to “examine and authenticate all the documents.’’ Lee’s family and friends refer to her as Nelle.
Carter, who has been a central figure in the controversy around “Watchman,’’ wrote the column “to tell the full story, fill in any blanks in people’s minds’’ about how the manuscript came to light.
Both Carter and “Watchman’’ publisher HarperCollins had initially said that Carter had found the manuscript last year. That news sparked debate about why Lee, 89, who had suffered a stroke in 2007 and insisted over the years that she would not publish another novel, changed her mind.
On July 2, The New York Times published a story saying that the manuscript might have actually been discovered as early as 2011, adding fuel to questions about the extent of Lee’s role in the decision to publish “Watchman.’’
According to the Times report, Carter, accompanied by Justin Caldwell, a Sotheby’s rare book expert, and Sam Pinkus, then Lee’s literary agent, met in 2011 to examine the contents of Lee’s safe-deposit box and the manuscript was discovered at that time.
In her column Monday, Carter says that the three did meet to examine the papers but that she left the meeting early and neither Caldwell nor Pinkus ever mentioned finding a manuscript.
She says that she discovered “Watchman’’ in 2014 during a re-examination of the contents of the box after conversations with Lee’s friends, who told her about speculation that Lee had completed another novel.
“Watchman” will be released to the public on Tuesday.