MONROEVILLE, Ala. — Author Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville buzzed with excitement for the Tuesday release of her novel "Go Set a Watchman," the sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning "To Kill a Mockingbird." The town has planned a full day of celebrations, including readings, walking tours and a mint julep cocktail hour outside the old courthouse.
But amid the excitement, there also was trepidation and disbelief that character Atticus Finch, the courtly model of integrity who defended a wrongly accused black man in the 1930s in "Mockingbird," is portrayed as a racist 20 years later in "Watchman."
Here are some scenes from Monroeville.
THE FIRST COPIES
Before the book's midnight release, more than 200 people waited in humid summer weather for sales to begin at Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe.
An Atticus Finch impersonator, with glasses and a briefcase, entertained the crowd, a few of whom came dressed as characters from the book.
Judy May and her sister Julia Stroud drove back to their hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, and snatched up the store's first two copies of "Watchman."
"I'm so excited, I'm shaking," May, 51, said as she walked outside with her hardback treasure.
The shop, near the courthouse square in Monroeville, ordered more than 10,000 copies — in a town with a population of less than 6,300.
READING FOR A CROWD
Shortly after sunrise, the doors of the Old Courthouse Museum opened and a bell tolled to mark the start of a marathon reading of "Watchman."
Among those signing up to take turns reading was Candy Smith, 49, who drove just under two hours from Montgomery. She got there early and was asked to be the first speaker in a reading expected to last eight hours.
"I love 'To Kill a Mockingbird.' I didn't know if I'd get a chance to read, but I'm excited," Smith said.
The museum is dedicated to telling a story of Lee and childhood friend Truman Capote. The speakers are reading in the old courtroom where Lee's father used to practice law. In the movie "To Kill a Mockingbird," the courtroom is an almost identical replica of the one in Monroeville.
STILL A HERO?
The new novel traces character Scout Finch's return home to the fictional town of Maycomb in the 1950s. She finds that her father, Atticus, has changed. News of his development came out in book reviews ahead of the "Watchman" release.
"I'm nervous. I'm reserving opinion, but I'm ready to be mad. He's the epitome of the moral compass," said Cher Caldwell, a 43-year-old English teacher from Kentucky.
May said she's tried to stay away from spoilers but is concerned about a different Atticus.
"Atticus has been a hero-type person through our lives here in Monroe County and the whole world actually. It would be pretty disappointing," May said. "But at the same time, you have to kind of remind yourself he was human at the time he was raised."
WHERE IS LEE?
Lee, 89, is expected to spend Tuesday at the assisted living facility where she lives in Monroeville. Before the February announcement of the discovery and release of "Watchman," Lee had long said she wouldn't publish another novel.