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University of Iowa News Release

June 15, 2006

June 28 "Live From Prairie Lights" Reading Profiles Enigmatic Author Harper Lee

Charles J. Shields will read from his new book, "Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 28, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI-AM 910.

The broadcast, hosted by WSUI's Julie Englander, will originate in a free event in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

Brad Hooper wrote for the American Library Association's Booklist, "Harper Lee is famous not only for her perennially best-selling first novel, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1960), but also for never having published a second one and for being relatively reclusive, not having granted interviews since the mid-1960s. Born in Monroeville, Ala., Lee was a childhood friend of another famous writer, Truman Capote, and their friendship lasted until his death.

"In fact, Lee accompanied Capote to Kansas and contributed considerable time assisting him in researching the murders that were the basis of his masterpiece, 'In Cold Blood' (1966). Lee was always unconventional, never adhering to rules established by, first, her mother, and, then, society. She attended college because she was supposed to, but dropped out and moved to New York to write. Without having heard the words directly from Lee (this book was written without her cooperation), Shields cannot explain exactly why there has never been a second novel, but his estimation of the situation is credible. An informative and genial biography that literary fiction lovers will flock to."

Author Anne River Siddons wrote, "Harper Lee caught the beauty of America with 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' but has remained something of a mystery ever since. Charles J. Shields's portrait of her, 'Mockingbird,' shows us a quietly reclusive, down-to-earth woman with an enormous gift and documents her struggle to live with that gift for the rest of her life. Shields evocation of both the woman and her beautiful, sleepy, and smoldering South are pitch perfect."

Shields, the author of several books for young people, has a bachelor's degree in English and a master's degree in American history from the University of Illinois, where he was a James Scholar.

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