NEW YORK — On Wednesday, HarperCollins unveiled the jacket art for Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman," the unexpected follow-up to her classic "To Kill a Mockingbird."
The new cover, like the one for "To Kill a Mockingbird," is a moody illustration featuring an oak tree in front, but also shows train tracks and a train in the distance. In a statement released by HarperCollins, company President Michael Morrison noted that "Go Set a Watchman" begins with "Mockingbird" protagonist Scout Finch returning by train 20 years later, in the 1950s, to her native Alabama.
"There are so many wonderful parts of 'Go Set a Watchman' that it was hard to pick just one iconic image to represent the book," Morrison said. "This design is perfect — it draws on the style of the decade the book was written, but with a modern twist."
Jonathan Burnham, a publisher and senior vice president at HarperCollins, said that creating an entirely new image had "certainly crossed our minds," but that he and others kept coming back "to the central idea that the cover should in some ways connect to 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' " An oak tree, "Mockingbird" fans know, can be found on the property where the reclusive Boo Radley lives in Lee's fictional Maycomb, Alabama.
HarperCollins has announced a first printing of 2 million copies and a July 14 release date for "Watchman." Pre-orders have kept the book high on Amazon.com's best-seller list despite ongoing concerns about the quality of the novel, which Lee wrote before "Mockingbird," and about the 88-year-old Lee's involvement in the publication. She has long expressed satisfaction with having "Mockingbird," which came out in 1960, as her only published book and has avoided the press for decades.
According to HarperCollins, a complete manuscript for "Go Set a Watchman" was discovered last year by Lee's attorney, Tonja Carter. State investigators in Alabama recently looked into whether publishing "Go Set a Watchman" involved financial fraud. Lee, who has been in frail health and lives in an assisted-living facility in her hometown of Monroeville, answered questions to the satisfaction of the Alabama Securities Commission and that part of the inquiry was closed, a state official said earlier this month. The status of the larger investigation by Alabama's Department of Human Resources is unclear.