The 'To Kill a Mockingbird' sequel theory we really don't want to believe.

Was To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee taken advantage of? The shocking theory we don’t want to believe.

Last month, Mamamia reported that a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird is set to be released by publisher HarperCollins.

The bookGo Set a Watchman, which was allegedly written before the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and secreted away, will be the first new work of Lee in more than 50 years.

At the time, the news took the literary world by storm.

But now, a report by the New York Times has raised questions about the timing of the discovery, Lee’s mental state, and the ability of the 88-year-old to consent to the publication.

As an author, Lee was notoriously publicity-shy and famously resistant to producing a follow-up to her masterpiece, “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

So did she really want to publish a second novel? Or was she pushed?

Author Harper Lee in 2007. Via Getty

The New York Times reports the announcement of the new book has divided residents of her hometown, as well as longtime friends who live elsewhere. One faction argues that Ms. Lee’s mental health is too shaky for her to have knowingly authorised the new book, while the other vigorously affirms her competence.

So now, investigators have stepped in,  interviewing Lee last month at the assisted living facility where she resides. They have also interviewed employees at the facility, called the Meadows, as well as several friends and acquaintances.

Harper Lee — or Nelle (her real first name) as she is known to many — suffered a stroke in 2007 resulting in serious vision and hearing problems. Friends who regularly visit her say it hasn’t impacted her ability to communicate. She is still able to hold lengthy conversations, as long as visitors raise their voices or write their questions down for her. She reads them with the help of a machine, and paper and a black marker are always kept handy.

mockingbird FB
An image from the film adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird

But there are reports that paint an entirely different picture.

When a friend, Wayne Flynt, asked her about her new novel, he said she seemed to be “in her own world” at first, and asked, “What novel?” Reminding her of “Watchman,” he told her “You must be so proud,” and she responded with “I’m not so sure anymore.”

Lee has refused any personal publicity for herself or the novel since 1964.

Charles Shields, author of a biography of Lee, told The Guardian the timing of the announcement raised questions, given it was shortly after the death of Lee’s sister Alice Lee, who was Harper’s “buffer against the publicity-hungry world”.

“Alice advised Harper about financial matters, contracts, rights, and the rest of it. I can’t think it’s just coincidence that two months after Alice’s death, this 60-year-old manuscript is suddenly available for publication,” he said.

“Understanding the relationship between the sisters as I do, I doubt whether Alice would have allowed this project to go forward.”

Shields added that it “wouldn’t be appropriate” to comment about Lee’s mental state, but believes the publicity-shy Lee is getting “poor advice”.

Published in 1960, the book won the Pulitzer Prize and became a classic of modern American literature.

Mamamia previously wrote about how the author ‘s first book was “discovered” by a lawyer friend.  The author explained in a statement that he completed the book, which featured the character Scout as an adult woman, in the 1950s.  But that it was her editor, who was particularly taken with the character Scout, who convinced her to write To Kill A Mockingbird instead.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realised it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it,” Lee said.

“After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

MORE: To Kill a Mockingbird is about to get a sequel.

Novelist Philip Hensher also raised questions about the deal in The Guardian. “For 50 years she’s maintained the position that she’d said what she wanted to, with that one, fantastic, novel, and that she didn’t want to publish anything else. So why has she changed her mind, and has she changed her mind?”

Before she died, Alice Lee said of her sister: “She doesn’t know from one minute to the other what she’s told anybody… She’s surprised at anything that she hears because she doesn’t remember anything that’s ever been said about it.”

Ms Lee’s publisher and literary agent have dismissed the suggestions that she is not of the mental capacity to consent to publishing the book.

The book is set for a July release, with many wondering what will become of the legacy of one of the world’s most beloved authors.