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HPPR Arts, Culture & History

Harper Lee has SW Kansas ties

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Fans of the Pulitzer Prize winning “To Kill a Mockingbird” know Harper Lee is planning to release an unexpected sequel to the famous story later this year.  But, you may not know the private author has ties to the Sunflower State reports KSN.

Before she was internationally recognized for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Harper Lee spent some time in Garden City working on another famous book.

Laurie Oshel is the assistant director of Finney County Historical Society.  She says, “Lee came to Garden City in late 1959, early 1960 with Truman Capote.”

Lee and Capote were friends.  She came to Kansas to help him research the Clutter family murders in Holcomb-- the focus of “In Cold Blood”.

During her time in Garden City, Lee formed relationships with some of the locals, keeping in touch for years.

Many who knew her well in the 1960s are gone. 

Duane West was the prosecuting attorney in the Clutter murders.  He says he wasn’t close with her, but remembers her dedication to the story.

“She came here two or three times. She was a very quiet person. She took notes all the time about what was going on,” says West.

Several years later, West and his wife saw a play with Lee and Capote in New York City.

He doesn’t keep in touch with her, but thinks there might be a chance that she thinks of the small city she visited decades ago.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” has sold 40 million copies, and was Lee’s only book.