To kill a sequel or to not kill a sequel? That is the question

Earlier this week, more than half a century after To Kill A Mockingbird was first published, Harper Lee's second offering Go Set a Watchman finally hit bookshelves in more than 70 countries worldwide.

The only people celebrating are the publishers, argues Mark Stringer
The only people celebrating are the publishers, argues Mark Stringer
Set 20 years after the events of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the follow-up was billed as the publishing event of the year, with fans queuing for hours to get their hands on a copy, bookshops placing significantly huge orders to cope with demand and every commuter's nose firmly nestled within their glossy new copy.

So far, so standard. 

What makes this an unusual story is that the build-up to the launch has been surrounded by anger and controversy over Lee's unexpected developments to the character, Atticus Finch, who has remained a literary (and childhood) hero for so many since the book was published in 1960.

Reviews have also been incredibly negative.

However, brutal reviews don’t seem to have made one jot of difference or dampened the passions of the patient waiting crowds clamouring for their copy. 

In fact, they seem to have done the opposite with more than 100,000 sales on day one in the UK, with us all looking to make our minds up (and not surprisingly it’s done little or nothing to dampen the marketing/ money machine of Harper Collins in the US and William Heinemann - the UK publisher).

The feedback was poor, those in the know hate it, and the publisher and everyone surely knew that was going to be the case. 

It feels a little bit like letting Britney Spears back on stage at the Brits, or Amy Winehouse going on tour when she should have been seeking help, i.e. not in their best interests. 

At what stage do the 'professionals' in the game owe a duty care to the creative talent?

Or is this about artistic integrity, subjectivity of art and the fact that this is such a historical book, it should be published?

Honestly, in this case, I think not. 

The world would be a happier and better place for us keeping the mystery around both Atticus Finch and Harper Lee. Seems like the only people celebrating here are the publishers.

Mark Stringer is the founder of PrettyGreen

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