Along with Thomas Pynchon and the late JD Salinger, Harper Lee is one of the world's most famous literary recluses. But the author of To Kill a Mockingbird has been tempted out of her self-imposed isolation – by none other than the Mail on Sunday.
Admittedly, Lee – who is now 84 and lives in sheltered housing in her childhood home of Monroeville, Alabama – gave away very little to the reporter, who had to promise not to mention her Pulitzer prize-winning story of racism in the American south, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Thanking the journalist for a box of chocolates, Lee – "dressed in a clean but faded T-shirt and loosely fitting gingham slacks" – said she was "most kind".
"We're just going to feed the ducks, but call me the next time you are here," said the author. "We have a lot of history here. You will enjoy it."
In the 50 years since Harper Lee published her classic novel that mesmerised 40million readers, she has barely written another word – and turned into an almost total recluse.
So when her friends agreed to give our reporter an introduction, it was on one strict condition...Don’t mention the Mockingbird
Despite the thick, black sunglasses, there is something familiar about the frail 84-year-old woman as she is helped falteringly towards the lake shore.
A delighted smile flickers across her face as ducks and Canada geese flock round to feed on the scraps of bread brought from the care home where she lives in a modest apartment.