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'Mockingbird' Author Compared Hometown To Elvis' Graceland

(AP) — "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee railed against her Alabama hometown for trying to exploit her success in a letter that helps explain later legal battles involving commercialization of her novel.

The writer's bitter assessment of Monroeville came in a three-page letter that is being sold with other items by the London-based Bonhams auctions.

Harper Lee
Pulitzer Prize winner and "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is given to those who have made remarkable contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, culture, or other private or public endeavors. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Lee used Monroeville as the model for fictional Maycomb, Alabama, in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book about racial injustice in the Jim Crow South. But in a letter she wrote to a friend in 1993, Lee complained harshly about the town.

Sandra Lindley, right and Lydia Kuhn behind listens to a reader at the Krispy Kreme shop Monday, March 6, 2006, in Fresno, Calif. Kuhn and others like her spent the morning reading "To Kill a Mockingbird," as part of The National Endowment for the Arts effort to get American's to read more. The program helped kick off a month's worth of programs meant to take the classic novel where the readers are; doughnut shops, retirement homes, downtown bars, museums and yes, even libraries.(AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)

Referring to a sordid Southern family featured in some of William Faulkner's works, Lee wrote: "You remember the Faulknerian prophecy — the Snopeses shall inherit the earth? They've already taken over Monroeville.

"What was once a tiny town of considerable character is now 6 times its size and populated by appalling people. Guess what: They are trying to turn Harper Lee into a tourist attraction like Graceland and Elvis Presley."

Harper Lee Hometown Q A
This Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 photo, shows the clock tower of the old courthouse at the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville, Ala., home to Harper Lee, the elusive author of best-seller "To Kill a Mockingbird." A group in the south Alabama city of Monroeville hopes to develop new attractions and draw more tourists to the hometown of the late "To Kill a Mockingbird" author. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Lee died in 2016 following publication of "Go Set a Watchman," an early version of "Mockingbird" that became only her second published book.

In her letter to the late Charles Weldon Carruth, an old friend and fellow Alabama native, Lee bemoaned both an interstate sign pointing the way to Monroeville and the prevalence of mockingbird images in the city of about 5,900 people, which is located 90 miles north of Mobile.

To Kill A Mockingbird
FILE - This Jan. 15, 2015 file photo shows the old courtroom that served as inspiration for the novel and movie "To Kill A Mockingbird" in Monroeville, Ala. Each spring, volunteers join together annually to perform a stage version of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" on the courthouse lawn in Monroeville, Ala. Yet the play may eventually be coming to an end. Organizers haven't been able to obtain rights to produce the play beyond 2015. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Her most pointed criticism was aimed at the Monroe County Museum, which has displays about Lee and her book located in the old courthouse that was used as a set model for the film version of "Mockingbird" starring Gregory Peck.

Gregory Peck
FILE - In this 1962 file photo originally released by Universal, actor Gregory Peck is shown as attorney Atticus Finch, a small-town Southern lawyer who defends a black man accused of rape, in a scene from "To Kill a Mockingbird," based on the novel by Harper Lee. Lee and her publisher announced Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015, that this summer they’ll release the 88-year-old author’s second book, “Go Set the Watchmen,” a kind of sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (AP Photo/Universal, File)

"The hypocrites in charge, not one of whom I know, say they are doing this to 'honor' me. What they are doing is trying to drown me in their own bad taste, and are embarrassing me beyond endurance," said Lee.

Lee later sued the museum for selling souvenirs related to her novel and using the title of the book for its website address. Her estate filed suit last year over the script for the current hit Broadway adaption of "Mockingbird," starring Jeff Daniels as lawyer Atticus Finch.

Aside from the letter, the auction includes several sketches by Lee and a signed first edition of "Mockingbird."

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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