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Harper Lee "happy as hell" about new book, publisher says

Amid concerns that Harper Lee was not involved in the decision to publish a second novel, HarperCollins issued a statement relayed by her attorney in which the author says she is "happy as hell" about the response to her upcoming book, "Go Set a Watchman."

In the statement given to the publisher by Lee's attorney, Tonja Carter, the author says "she is alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions of 'Watchman.'" Lee stunned the world this week by agreeing to the release of her first book since the classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" came out in 1960. But ecstasy has been tempered by speculation about her condition. Lee, 88, has been in poor health in recent years.

The publisher has acknowledged that they haven't dealt directly with Lee on the new book, but communicated with her through Carter and literary agent Andrew Nurnberg.

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Pulitzer Prize winner and "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee smiles before receives the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House Nov. 5, 2007, in Washington.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rediscovered last fall, "Go Set a Watchman" is essentially a sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird," although it was finished earlier. The 304-page book will be Lee's second, and the first new work in more than 50 years.

"In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called 'Go Set a Watchman,'" Lee said in a statement issued by Harper on Tuesday. "It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became 'To Kill a Mockingbird') from the point of view of the young Scout.

"I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. 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."

"Watchman," to be published in July, already is No. 1 on Amazon.com.