October 12, 1960
I am delighted, as I know you are, with the success of the book and I am eager to begin a new novel that I can get out to the public as soon as possible. I am absolutely bursting with ideas and feel the name “Harper Lee” will be synonymous with prolific writing for generations to come. “Harper Lee has ANOTHER book out ALREADY?” That’s what people will be saying.
Here’s my first notion and I am prepared to start work on it right away:
Boo Radley: Time Cop. The reclusive Mr. Radley, who emerges, however briefly, from the shadows at the end of Mockingbird, is revealed to not really be a shut-in after all but rather a top officer in the Interchronological Police Squadron! Once he gets his orders, he climbs in his time machine (located in his house, that’s why no one is ever allowed in there!) and blasts off to ancient Egypt, Victorian England, or whenever. His mission: stop time-traveling criminals— generally by stabbings staged to look like accidents as in Mockingbird—from altering the proper course of history.
I await your approval.
July 8, 1961
No traction on that last idea, huh? Okay. How about this:
To Surf a Mockingbird. Tired of living in the repressive South, Atticus, Jem, and Scout set out for sunny California! Atticus becomes a level-headed surf champion and defends minority surfers from charges of breaching surf protocol. In the end, when the bad guys die of unexplained knife wounds as Atticus’s children hide nearby, the deaths are chalked up to simple accidents.
Note: this might work well as a movie as well. Frankie Avalon as Atticus?
February 21, 1974
Just wanted to let you know I’m still brainstorming. I’m just going to say the title and see what you think:
TO BE KILLED BY MOCKINGBIRDS. People like horror. The Exorcist was huge. So it’s years after the first book. Jem has moved away. Atticus has died, and without his presence and expert marksmanship to worry about, the people of Maycomb finally let out their pent up aggression on the now grown-up Scout with threats and vandalism and all sorts of cruel acts. Finally, she can take it no longer and uses her MAGICAL ABILITIES to summon forth great clouds of mockingbirds to attack and kill the racist people of Maycomb!
See, there’s, I don’t know, a witch or something in Maycomb who gave her special powers as a thank you to Atticus for defending her in a witch hunt. Yeah, that’ll work. Or maybe Scout just fell and hit her head in the woods and when she woke up she could control mockingbirds and the head injury screwed her up a little, so she’s VENGEFUL. In truth, I haven’t really worked this part out. But I will!
Anyway so she’s being harassed by the townspeople. “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, but for me it’s a blessing for you to be killed by a flock of mockingbirds!” Scout shouts as millions of bloody beaked birds swarm around her, following her every command. “YOU’RE ALL SINNERS!”
Then the killing really kicks in. Tippi Hedren ain’t got nothing on this carnage.
May 27, 1977
I just saw Star Wars. How about To Kill a Space Mockingbird?
Not really formed yet. Just a thought.
June 19, 2011
Okay, I think I better just let the Mockingbird thing rest. Been trying for decades and just getting nowhere.
I am pleased however to be writing again, this time under the pseudonym E.L. James, whose first book, Fifty Shades of Grey will be published tomorrow. Wish me luck!
This and other funny pieces can be found in long-time Tendency contributor John Moe’s collection Dear Luke, We Need to Talk, Darth: And Other Pop Culture Correspondences.